How Can You Even Make Sense of “Forever”?

Oftentimes I find the concept of “eternity” difficult to comprehend. Suppose you’re a painter, with what colors do you paint eternity? Suppose you’re a songwriter, in what chords, what progressions, what tonality do you compose?

It’s just over midnight when I decide to have a short walk before sleeping. I find all the boys are sound asleep except one.

“That your wife?”

“Uh, no, sir,” he replies while swiftly tucking a photograph of a beautiful young lady inside his pocket.

“You’re a lucky guy.”

“I guess so.”

“How long have you two been together?”

“Eight years.”

“Wow. That’s quite a long time.”

“Not without our ups and downs.” He chuckles nervously.

“Have some trouble sleepin’ in the dirt?”

“No, sarge, it’s just I don’t feel like sleeping already.”

I sat down next to him. It was full moon and I could see his weary face clearly. There’s a momentary silence as his mind begins to wander.

“I really miss her,” he says, out of nowhere. Then another silence follows.

“Do you think the war will soon be over, sir?”

“I don’t know.” I know that sort of answer would not give him relief but I honestly don’t know. Personally, I’m tired of this war.

His face becomes solemn. “When I go back to Jakarta, I will propose to her.”

“I’ll cut your throat if you don’t invite me.”

He chuckles again. This young man has a contagious kind of jolly and warm chuckle which immediately lifts your mood up.

“Tell me, do you believe in heaven and hell, private?”

“Yeah, I do. What of it, sir?” He turns his head towards me, interested in my unexpected question.

“I never get it.” I pause for a moment. “It’s funny, though, how temporary our lives here on Earth seem to be.” He looks intently at me, waiting to hear my next sentences.

“This war makes me think again, deep inside. I’ve seen plenty of deaths already. A grenade falls, bang! You’re dead. Just weeks ago we’re hit by an ambush. We were eating! There was this man, he hadn’t even finished sayin’ his prayer yet.”

“It’s horrible,” he says. He looks upset. Now he turns his head back, looking to the darkness in front of us. The darkness seems to stare back, as if mocking our complete inability in knowing when the war will be over.

“Sarge, what if this war won’t be over? What if… this war continues forever?”

“Oh, you don’t know what you’re talkin’ about, kid. What’s ‘forever’? What do you mean by that?”

“Uh, like, forever, sir.”

“I can’t make sense of ‘forever’. Guess that’s why I have trouble believin’ in heaven and hell.”

“I too, sir, have a difficulty in making sense of it. But dare I say to you, it might help if you look at it from another perspective.”

“Another perspective?”

“Yeah. I mean, ‘forever’ is almost crazy, right? You have this stretch of time,” he stretches his arms wide open, “and it has no beginning and no end. But then again, if you think about it, there is no time there.”

He is silent for a while, trying to find a way to communicate his idea. “Oh, now I’m blabbering.”

“No, no. Please continue.”

“Are you sure? My friends would be bored whenever I start to talk about things like this.” He chuckles again.


“Right. So you have this concept of a place where there is no time. How can a man make sense of a place without time? It’s very puzzling! We’re so used to the concept of time. All our lives, we cannot escape from time.

“But I try to approach it from the other direction. In my attempt to make sense of the ‘forever’, I’d think first of the ‘never’. The two are somewhat similar, in a sense that they’re both timeless. There is no time also in the ‘never’. I’d ponder about things that hasn’t happened yet, and extrapolate it so that it would never happen. Like, what if we’d never land on Mars, or… or, what if I would never marry her. Well, that knocks my brain!”

We look again into the darkness. Sometimes I have the feeling that I would never see peace again. This war has been going for three years I almost forget my previous life. Experiencing so many horrors sets a new normal in my mind.

“And then I’d compare those images of ’never’ with images of ‘ever’: the image of me living in Mars, for example. Or, the image of my wedding day. Well, even though ‘ever’ isn’t exactly the same as ‘forever’, but it helps, you know.”

Now it’s me who chuckle. “Funny. I compare the images of war and peace side by side. I can vividly imagine this war going on and on and on, but it just no longer makes sense to me that we can have eternal peace. Guess I’ve been here for too long.”

“Uh, in our original context of heaven and hell, it does make sense, sir. If I’m asked to imagine a place where there is torture forever, I cannot do that. But if I am to picture a place where no one can ever see Peace and Love, well, I can do that. Same goes for the opposite.”

The darkness in front of us is pitch black. It is a terrible thing to have no light at all. I get up, quietly thanking in my downtrodden heart for the full moon above us.

“It’s a helpful technique, sarge,” says he, with a cordial smile on his face.

“It is. Go to sleep, private, it’s almost one.”

“Yes, sir.”

As I walk back, I’m reminded of a story my grandmother used to tell me when I was a little boy. It was about a really bad man who never did any good during his life. He stole, he beat people up, he lied, he cheated. As the story goes, one day he was arrested and sentenced to death. No one would even dare to think that he could be forgiven. But on his last day on Earth, he said to the man beside him, “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.” And as the story goes, that criminal be with him in paradise.

All of a sudden, the ‘never’ becomes ‘forever’.


On the Inordinate Use of Social-ish Media

“Really? For Goliath’s sake, when was the marriage?” asked I, upon learning that a friend had the courage to get married without my knowledge of the special occasion.

I was only a bit annoyed at first. But then came my friend’s response: “It was on Facebook! When was the last time you sign in to your Facebook account?”

“I don’t see why I should.”

“Come on man, are you kidding me? You live in the 2016 and you can’t see why you should be on Facebook?!”

Now normally I am a very calm man, but okay, he asked for it.

“Listen to me. Imagine you are hitchhiking on a spaceship launched exactly from the location where you sit now. At first you will see this compound of concrete and asphalt we call Jakarta. All its buildings, all its roads, cars, along with its happy inhabitants. After a while you will be high enough to look at the vastness of the dense Borneo jungle, all those innumerable trees—with who knows how many insects and birds and bats and reptiles—crisscrossed by large, snake-like rivers. Then the Pacific ocean comes into view, glimmering under the Sun on one of its corner and brewing a tropical cyclone on the other, at the same time being a nurturant home to countless fishes and invertebrates.

“Keep going until the whole planet fits into your panorama. This, I presume, should be the first time you really have a sense of how big and beautiful Planet Earth actually is. Continuing your hitchhiking voyage, you come within moon’s orbit distance. You see the proverbial earthrise the way Frank Borman saw it. You concede a gaping mouth, I bet. Now keep going, keep going. By now you should reach the periphery of the Solar System. As Neptune passes by, you notice the one planet you call home shrinks. It shrinks and it shrinks and it shrinks, until it turns into a pale blue dot.

“Right now you must wonder, is this how small we are in the universe? Our planet, with all the people and all the events? Now picture people. People hunting antelope, people building pyramids, people fighting each other. People reciting poem, people singing, people dancing. People writing equations, people sailing around the world, people testing out a flying contraption, people making video calls. People praying. People go to work. People marching for freedom. People born. People die.

“And then you wonder why are we here—what are we doing, on this pale blue dot in one corner of the universe.

“Now hold your curiosity, go find a mirror, see your own facial expression, and then say: FACEBOOK.”

He stared blankly at me. And after a few seconds paid his due attention back to the news feed again.

Well, maybe he doesn’t like essential things. Or maybe he is just addicted.

One of the great uses of Twitter and Facebook will be to prove at the Last Day that prayerlessness was not from lack of time.

John S. Piper

Eternity, the Reason Why

Nggak terasa blog ini udah berusia 7 tahun—dan saya ketawa juga setelah nyadar bahwa ini entry pertamanya.

Saya tertawa kecil karena ketika saya lihat lagi ke belakang, saya merasa lucu aja dengan ironi yaitu saya yang pernah capek-capek mencari jawaban “Kenapa?” sampai akhirnya memutuskan untuk menjawarakan Voltaire ini ( ternyata sudah mengerti dari awal. Ini lucunya kayak orang yang order delivery pizza terus setelah ganti pesanan 5 kali karena plin-plan nentuin topping akhirnya nungguin lama dan abang delivery-nya nggak dateng-dateng dan di titik itu dia nyadar kalau ternyata dia salah satu abang delivery juga (“Oiya, kan gua lagi on duty ya”).

Kebetulan malam ini teringat almarhum teman yang suka memandangi langit malam juga. Ya, memang ternyata sedikit sekali yang kita tau tentang hidup. “Kenapa?”, “Kok begitu?”, “Kenapa bukan saya aja?”, “Kenapa harus sekarang?”, “Kok gini banget sih?”, “Emangnya kenapa kalo aku nggak mau?”, “Terus apa esensinya?”, “Udah gini doang?”, dan lain sebagainya. Tapi saya percaya ada Alasan di balik ini semua. Dan Alasan itu hanya bisa dipandang tête-à-tête, dari dekat, dalam sebuah hubungan personal yang satu kakinya berada di alam mortal, dan satu lagi di kekekalan—Eternity, the ultimate why.

In memoriam Rudi Rauf.
Rest in peace, my friend.

The Cruising Battleship

Oke, di post kedua ini gw mau cerita tentang asal-muasal dibuatnya blog ini, karena semua hal yang ada di dunia ini pasti punya latar belakangnya masing2, ya gak? Well, ide buat bikin blog sebenernya udah ada di otak dari tahun 2008, tapi waktu itu gw masih keranjingan ama yg namanya game online, jadi pas connect ke internet, gw bukannya ngetik trus klik “Sign up for a new blog”, tapi malah nyasar ke server2 game online. Pendek kata, tahun 2008 pun berlalu tanpa bikin blog, datanglah tahun 2009 yang sibuk. Sebagai anak kelas 3 SMA yang baik, pastinya gw mesti bener2 konsen ke dua hal penting: UAN sama Perguruan Tinggi. Dari bulan Januari sampe April itu bener2 sama sekali gak ada kesempatan buat ngapa-ngapain selain belajar, makan, tidur, UKM (urusan kamar mandi hahaa lol), dan kembali belajar.

Nah, baru pas akhir April kemarin gw bisa menghirup udara bebas. UAN udah…

View original post 1,934 more words

When It Feels Like Surgery and It Burns Like Third Degree and You Wonder What Is It Worth

Brexit is a worrying sign that our world is on the verge of undergoing seismic changes—or is it?

It was a shocking message: the Great Britain had decided to leave European Union. In almost no time the media was instantly filled with analysis and editorials and prolonged debates on comment sections. The British pound plunged to the lowest in 30 years.

In the wake of Brexit came the realization of a recession. All of a sudden everyone started to panic and caused turmoil in the market. The footsie dropped and DAX and Nikkei and Hang Seng followed the same pattern.

But that doesn’t concern me. After all, them bankers and investors aren’t the ones who live below poverty line.

What concerns me was the fragmentation of Europe. Nostalgic nationalism gave rise to “far-right populist movement”.

History repeats itself, they say. Europe had nightmares, and those nightmares came in ultra-nationalistic nights.

And if this is another history, pray it won’t go down to the same corner as Franz Ferdinand or Edvard Beneš did.

Pelintiran Hati di Bawah Layar yang Terkembang

Terkadang aku takut tidur di malam hari

Takut esok Laut masih lagi hitam dan putih

dan camar laut tak menemukan pijakan.


Bertahun Matahari tidak terbit di sini, Kawan,

sampai-sampai aku lupa siapa dia.

Atau mungkin aku belum pernah mengenalnya?


Di malam hari aku juga tak berani membuat api

“Kapalku hanyalah kapal kayu biasa,” pikirku

Maka kuambil secarik kertas dan melipatnya

membentuknya menjadi api kertas besar


Oh, yang akan terus kuingat!

Bahwa yang membakar bukanlah api,

melainkan kepalsuan yang lembab.

Delapan belas ikan di bawahku tertawa


Ternyata api tak pernah mau membakar kapal

Dengan tulus diambilnya kursi

lalu bercerita tentang Hidup

dan ikut menertawakannya

Api yang membasahi jiwa, menyegarkan


Tidak ada yang lebih indah dari tawa itu; tidak ada.

Selamanya aku dapat tidur tenang di malam hari

Kini Bumiku merah dan hijau dan biru


Akan kuantar kau ke pelabuhan dengan pelukan seribu tahunku

“Berlayarlah, Sayang!”

Kepakan indah sayapmu

mengairi sesiapa yang terkunjungi.


Dan sementara waktu aku pergi

Mencari mesin pintar dan padi perak

Semua yang terjadi, semua yang akan terjadi


Hidup kurayakan, Maut kusambut

Aku sudah bisa tidur nyenyak

Hingga pagi nanti kita terbangun,

kuharap sekitar tak lagi lembab

On Rejoicing

With grateful heart I continue to hope.

I’m sorry, I don’t know what else to write on this subject. Feel free to add one or two in the comment box.

What’s So Amazing About Christmas?

Hello again, dear courteous reader! It’s good to be able to write again after almost three months without a single post.

I hate to tell you this, but Christmas does already seem to fade away. The Christmas trees have been dismantled, the carols deleted from playlist. Where has the baby gone?

It is barely a month and the baby no longer occupies my mind. Heck, even other people stops talking about Christmas. Conversations are being dominated by dropping oil price, threatened Schengen, East Coast blizzard, Davos 2016, or other “current affairs”. The department store decors are changed, too. There’s no red-white-green theme anymore; it is all red and gold, in anticipation of the Chinese New Year. Christmas no longer sells.

So it makes me wonder, is this all what Christmas has to offer? Two weeks—maybe three, four at best—of festivities, of frantic shopping? Mistletoe and leftover food?

I look up on the Internet and there are numerous articles on the true meaning of Christmas. I read themselves and find them to be not so appealing. Sure, theologically speaking, Christmas is so much more than sales and carols. But somehow I don’t get the point of celebrating it. I mean, why celebrate the birth of a baby? Yes, the birth of a baby is a nice thing to behold, but what’s so amazing about it?

That birth should be celebrated because due to circumstances on that silent night, everybody can relate themselves to baby Jesus. Born in a manger to an almost-unknown couple, even those in the lowest rung of social ladder will feel touched by the relevancy. But surely this is not all about feel-good social divide? There must be more to this birth.

That birth should be celebrated because it was the birth of a Savior, the coming of a Redeemer to our temporal and imperfect world, they say. Well yes, but then Good Friday should be the one to be celebrated more than Christmas. THAT is the actual moment when we humans are redeemed. But we don’t celebrate Easter with the same enthusiasm as we do Christmas, do we? So what’s so amazing about Christmas?

Not to negate the points I have brought above, but I don’t think Christmas is that amazing. Those points hold true. Somehow I just don’t get it. No, I don’t.

Now, recollecting that moment we can repress the joy, but the guilt remains conscious; remembering the stable where for once in our lives everything became a You and nothing was an It. And craving the sensation but ignoring the cause, we look round for something, no matter what, to inhibit our self-reflection, and the obvious thing for that purpose would be some great suffering. So, once we have met the Son, we are tempted ever after to pray to the Father; “Lead us into temptation and evil for our sake.” They will come, all right, don’t worry; probably in a form that we do not expect, and certainly with a force more dreadful than we can imagine. In the meantime there are bills to be paid, machines to keep in repair, irregular verbs to learn, the Time Being to redeem from insignificance.

Wystan H. Auden, For The Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio

But then I think again.

Imagine telling “Christmas is not so amazing” to the ones whose lives have been touched and changed by this man. Imagine telling it to blind Bartimaeus. To Jairus. To Lazarus. I imagine they would be quick to tell their story.

Tell it to the ones who witnessed the event themselves. To the shepherds. To the Magi. These men, whose names we don’t even know, have seen more than just an ordinary baby. They have seen angels and heavenly host and a star that stopped moving.

Try telling it to they who have been sinful but left it behind because this man came into their lives. Tell it to Zacchaeus. To the repenting criminal at Calvary. To Paul. In short, tell it to the men and women who will burst to cry at the very reading of the line “for unto us a child is born”.

And then there’s the disciples. Try asking these men, who have seen so many things done by Him, what Christmas is really about. Even imagining the answer myself sends shiver down my spine.

Then ask it to yourself. Not what theology has told you, no. Doctrines aside, answer it in relation to what He has done in your personal life, because apparently it is he/she whose life has been changed through the birth of Christ who will appreciate Christmas better.

I am none the wiser here, so I’ll be honest: my answer would be another cliché. I pray that tomorrow will bring less cliché and more splendor. I pray that the baby will be born and grow up and bring more miracle to this life, sooner rather than later.

Merry amazing Christmas, dear reader.

Continually cultivate a sense of amazement that in spite of all your sins God has forgiven you through Christ. Be amazed that you have peace with God. It’s this sense of amazement, that I, a sinner, have peace with God, that makes the heart tender, kind and forgiving. Extend this to others seventy times seven.

John S. Piper