I was born in a fundamentalist family, in a fundamentalist church. One of our favorite pastimes was Spotting End Time Events. The thing about end time events is that they can crop up just about anywhere. Looking back, I smile a little to think about how very het up we got over some particular piece of legislation, or war, or social trend. Our concern was less about what such things might be doing to the world, but how they might be heralded as harbingers of The Close of Probation, the Time of Trouble, and Jesus’ Second Coming. I remember my dad sitting in his chair one Sabbath morning mulling over an article in one of his religious magazines. The article apparently gave the number of Seventh-day Adventists, and the rate of church growth. He applied some Bible-based mathmatical calculations to that, and came to the breakfast table to inform us that, based on his calculations, a designated percentage of Adventists (I think it was one in ten or something) would equal 144,000 by a certain date.
He hurried to remind us that he wasn’t setting a time for the Second Coming, because the Bible said we weren’t supposed to do that. He was, in Rachel Maddow’s words, “just sayin’.” I don’t know about my brother and sisters, but I ate my Team Flakes that morning in nervous silence.
The date Dad had calculated has come and gone, and we have moved past a series of “end of the world” markers since then–I had a neighbor man who tracked them for me. Occasionally I watered his garden for him while he and his wife headed for the hills. He let us eat their tomatoes in their absence, so I got to kind of look forward to the “end of the world” alerts.
At the last political election my mom told me that we were moving into “end time events,” because a man running for the Oregon House of Representatives had proposed some piece of legislation. I believe it had to do with bike paths.
Looking back on our Millenium Alerts, I feel a sort of fondness for them, largely because I, too, have been looking at the world lately and if I’m not quite ready to announce that End Time Events are approaching, I must admit that increasingly I’m wondering how we are going to find our way back from some of the places we are going. The world economy is imploding. Natural resources are being exhausted. The ice caps are melting. Politics are become ever more polarized and extreme. None of these things are particularly new. Nor is the fact that those who should know better prefer to simply pretend that we can continue as we have been indefinitely. It means that measures that could be taken to halt or slow the devastation waiting for us don’t get taken, and we go careening on to who knows where.
But what if Jesus doesn’t swoop down and save us all from ourselves? We’ll have to figure out a way to survive in the mess we’ve made. How will we do that?
Short side trip here–bear with me; it’s relevant. When I was pregnant the lady who ran my childbirth class talked to us about the changes late pregnancy brings. For those who haven’t experienced it, ladies in late pregnancy pee. A lot. Night and day, we pee. Sleeping all night becomes an almost mythical attainment. The lady explained that though there are biological reasons for that (the baby’s sitting on one’s bladder, for one thing), those nights are valuable training for motherhood. “Those nights teach you how to wake up…and how to go back to sleep,” she told us. “That’s a survival skill for new mothers. You have to get up with the baby a lot. Can you imagine if you couldn’t go back to sleep afterward?”
The process of pregnancy is actually one long adaptation to keeping going under adverse conditions. It’s a lesson in adaptability. And maybe that’s the key here. I mentioned the economy several paragraphs ago. Things got very ugly here for a while. I ended up going to places financially I never, ever, expected to go. It was hard. And the hard lesson in those days was that if I was to survive, I would have to change. Throughout history, the organisms that survive are those that adapt.
The world is changing. I have no doubt it’ll get worse before it gets better. I think that in ten years I’ll look around and not recognize my life. And that’s okay, because if the world is changing those of us who weather the transitions the best will not be the richest, or the poorest, but those who are best at finding creative ways of moving into the new world–those who can adapt.