by Lindsay Hardin Freeman—
What does God’s kingdom mean? We hear this phrase often: in the Bible, at church, in the Lord’s Prayer and all around us. I’ll be the first to admit: I take the reign of God for granted, like an old, cozy sweater. I refer to it without really thinking about it. When I see the term in print, sometimes I gloss over it.
When I stop to consider, I understand something foundational: God’s kingdom — God’s reign — is about creation, holy restoration, relationships and trust.
HOLY RESTORATION IN CREATION
Last week I stood on the Minnesota side of Lake Superior, some 150 miles north of Duluth. While there, looking to the northeast, I thought of my old friend Michelle, whose ashes were buried a couple miles up the shore.
She and I had been friends for years — 50 years, to be exact. Throughout high school, college and all the years following, until she died without warning. She was an internationally recognized judo champ and an Outward Bound instructor. Michelle was in great shape. Physically stronger than the rest of us who were her friends, she would practice every day at her dojo, throwing grown men over her shoulders like licorice.
I remember feeling safe with her, whether we were walking through a dark alley or canoeing through the wilderness on the Minnesota/Canada border. In those days, we camped with no cell phones or
emergency flares — just a canoe and a tent. One summer we lived together in an old cabin on Lake Superior. There was no electricity. Our water came from the lake. Just the sound of the waves would
put us to sleep each night.
The years progressed. She remained single. I married. Still we remained friends; she was godmother to my children. Then she died, suddenly and alone. I felt as if I was on the old carnival ride that spins while the floor drops down, leaving the riders’ bodies glued to the wall. All at once, a key part of my foundation was gone.
It’s been five years now. There will always be a hole. But that day, as I looked up the shore, I could feel her presence. She was there…at peace…watching and guarding her beloved lake. I got a sense of her wisdom, of her joining the great throng of souls which includes her European ancestors as well as her Native American spiritual ancestors. She had returned to the arms of her Creator. She was one with God’s kingdom.
Winter snows filled the rock crevices holding her ashes. The temperature remained below zero for most of the winter. But she is safe in God’s embrace. And she’s not without life. As the Episcopal prayer book says, my friend is going “from strength to strength in God’s heavenly kingdom.”
I’ve become a rock collector. I’ve always loved basalt and granite rocks, as well as those Lake Superior agates that you can find if you look hard enough. Now I have time to appreciate them more and to tumble them in my new rock tumbler. God’s been working on them for millions of years. I figure I’m just helping out, polishing a wee bit.
One rock in my collection seems to have some magic to it. By lake standards, it’s a little dull. An oval-shaped burgundy rock, it measures three inches across and a half-inch thick, with an indentation I can rub my thumb across. It’s made of a microcrystalline kind of quartz called chalcedony that sports significant iron deposits.
I keep this rock next to my bed. I often hold it in prayer. This rock might be a billion years old. It
has had no control over its existence. It billowed up from underground volcanoes and was tossed around for millions of years. Perhaps it lay on the bottom of the lake for centuries. Certainly, it was ground up by Canadian glaciers moving across Minnesota some 12,000 years ago. But it is stable and beautiful and solid and a part of God’s kingdom. Its atoms were brought into being when God breathed over the void, separating the light from the dark, bringing order out of chaos. It speaks to me of stability and gives me a sense of calm about God’s reign. I know that we are even more protected than that rock. Despite the wind, the waves and the years that wash over us, we are safe, because we are part of God’s beloved kingdom.
This article is excerpted from the March/April 2022 issue of Gather magazine. To read more like it, subscribe to Gather
The Rev. Lindsay Hardin Freeman, an Episcopal priest, is the author of Bible Women: All Their Words and Why They Matter. Learn more at LindsayHardinFreeman.com