Recently, I wrote that I have a theory that I’m calling Eternity Overlay. I say it’s a “theory,” but is it? Thinking about it as a theory is what gave me the idea of how I’d spend the next few blog posts (including this one): laying the groundwork for it. In order to understand the theory, you first have to understand the foundation upon which the theory is built. Right?
Well, yeah, that’s how scientific theories work. I’ve read a bunch of “pop science” books, and some of them are about some new theory in astrophysics or evolutionary theory or something else. Often in books like that, the authors follow a particular pattern: they spend the first few chapters, sometimes even the first half of the book, laying the groundwork, building the foundation. That way, when they reach the Eureka moment somewhere around page 200, you and I, the laypeople, can understand their theory, and why it’s groundbreaking or mindboggling or whatever it is. Often these books are written either by experts in the field describing their own theories, or by experienced science writers who have spent a lot of time studying other people’s theories, and are well versed in how to translate arcane science into terms that you and I can comprehend.
But that’s not what the Eternity Overlay is. For one thing, I’m no expert in my field – heck, I don’t even know what “my field” would be. This concept hasn’t grown from years of study, built by standing on the shoulders of giants. Honestly, “theory” isn’t the right word for what it is. It’s probably more accurate to say that the Eternity Overlay is a vision I received when I was in high school, a vision which has spent decades nesting in the back of my mind, collecting various twigs and roots from my experience along the way to help me understand what it means.
So here’s what I was planning to do: this blog entry (EO 1) was supposed to be about the word eternity, and how it connects to time. I was going to follow it up with EO 2, which would describe how eternity is used in the Bible, particularly the four canonical gospels. EO 3 would deal specifically with eternity in John, which isn’t about the afterlife at all, but rather is about a particular way of living now. The next few posts would move onto some other ideas, including mindfulness, a popular therapeutic technique that helps alleviate things like depression and anxiety. I intended to draw this all into a neat foundation, and then plunk the Eternity Overlay on top of it at the end, like EO 7 or so. That would be my page 200. That was my neat, orderly plan.
I tried. I tried writing EO 1. I must have started it ten times. It’s been sitting unfinished on my computer for days. Weeks. It’s just not working. And that makes sense – I was trying to write like I have a scientific thesis to explain to you. And that’s just not what this is.
So I have to shift gears. I think I’ll get to all those pieces eventually in future blogs (I’ll still call them EO’s just for fun), in one way or another. But in this post, I’m just going to tell you what the Eternity Overlay is, at least briefly. Because after all, that’s how this happened in real time. The idea of the Eternity Overlay came to me as an idea, a vision – well, maybe a vision. I’ll let you decide whether you believe that or not. But it came to me, and I thought I understood it then – but now, decades later, I’m finding that it’s far deeper than I thought. It keeps becoming more and more intriguing, more and more meaningful, more and more in line with my understanding of the world and of God’s work in it.
And it’s funny – shifting gears like this, having a plan for the blog and then completely rethinking it, redoing it, reediting, iterating it, that’s in a way exactly what the Eternity Overlay is all about. You have to start from somewhere. You have to put together a plan. And then God comes in and fixes that plan up.
Did you know that according to the creation stories found in the Bible, God did not create the world out of nothing? Creation ex nihilo – perhaps you’ve come across that term. It’s a nice Latin phrase that means “from nothing.” It’s the way we think of creation sometimes – that God works by bringing this creation here out of nothing. And that is indeed a part of some philosophies about how the world began. But that would be alien to the authors of the Bible. That’s not what happens in the story of Genesis.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters.Genesis 1:1-2, Revised Standard Version
Do you notice what happens there? God isn’t bringing something into the world where nothing was. The earth is already there – it’s just without form. The deep, the waters, are already there. The sea is often used as a symbol of chaos in the Hebrew Bible. So when God creates, which is described in the following verses (and, I suppose, throughout all subsequent scripture, in a way), God is bringing order into a world of chaos. The Hebrew phrase that’s translated “without form and void” is something like tohu abohu, which is a beautiful onomatopoeia of what the world was without God’s action. It was a swirling, shifting, uncontrolled mess. But it was there. God didn’t make something out of nothing. God made something good out of something chaotic.
That’s what’s happening to this series of blog posts right now I think. I had a plan – but it was a messy plan, a chaotic plan, a plan that just wasn’t going to work. I didn’t know that until I tried. But the only way I could find the better plan, the ordered plan, dare I hope God’s plan, was to start from something. You’ve got to start with what you’ve got. That’s when God works miracles.
At least I think so. Maybe.
Anyway, I changed my mind. I’m not going to tell you what the Eternity Overlay is quite yet in this post. This post has been going on long enough. I’ll save that for EO 2. At least that’s the plan right now, anyway. We’ll see what happens there. But I’m thrilled. Because this is coming together far better than I intended.
Photo by Jens Lelie on Unsplash
One thought on “EO 1: Trying to Start Talking about the Eternity Overlay”
I’m just catching up with this, but I’m very excited. I hope that as you explore “Eternity Overlay,” you seek all the places in which eternity is here and now. We talk about “being present,” or in sports, it’s the relaxed excitation known as “the zone.” Call it what you will – the premise is that we can touch the eternal in a moment, right here and now. I look forward to what’s next!