Jared and the Brother of Jared and their family and friends all agreed that they would follow God and step into the boats, which were actually barges, which were like submarines. And then they pushed into the water, and took one last look at the land before closing the hatch. It would be a year before they saw land again.
And a year is a long time to be stuck in a boat on an ocean with people and animals and honey bees. Because when you’re all stuck like that, people tend to get sea sick, and smelly, and probably a little bit cranky. And bees are not always the friendliest neighbors.
Even though the family was cranky and smelly and bee stung, and sick, they remembered that God was with them. Because they had shining rocks that lit up the room like electric light bulbs. And they were glad to have light because even though sometimes they couldn’t stand each other, they were glad to be able to see each other and play games and draw pictures and do school.
And God blew the boat all the way to the Promised Land. And when it arrived, the people fell out of the barges and onto the earth. And they picked up the white sand and kissed it and let it slip through their fingers and into the emerald ocean and cried at the green trees. And everyone ran along the beach and laughed and spun in circles on the earth under the sun. “God,” they said, “the world really is beautiful.”
And the people made a promise to God: that they would remember Him, and love the world he had created for them. And they built the city God had sent them to build. And the children grew into adults and taught their children to trust God and love the earth. They planted gardens, and harvested honey and ate fruit and they grew old and content and eventually died.
And the children’s children saw it happen. They saw how much their parents and grandparents had loved the world. And it didn’t seem right, that they were dying. They were meant for the earth. They were beautiful here. And so the children’s children made a mistake.
It was a similar mistake to the people who tried to build the tower to heaven. Only this was the opposite. The children were not running away from the earth or from each other, they were running away from death. Just thinking about death made them shiver. And so they tried to gather money and gold and power so that they could be healthy and safe and live as long as possible.
They gathered armies and created kings and told secrets and set up passwords to protect themselves and their cities and their wealth and their health. But the more they focused on surviving, the harder it became. Soon, they began fighting. Kings and towns and cities fought for control and killed each other. Because no one wanted to die, so many people were dying.
And children wanted to be grownups. Old men wanted to be young again. Old fathers became jealous of their young sons, and stopped feeding them food. And sons fought with their fathers, and locked them away in prisons. And everyone worshiped the strong and the beautiful. They wanted to eat the best food, see the best things, marry the handsomest spouse, and have the prettiest life. A life someone could take a picture of, and show others, and it would make them jealous.
And for this life, the people were willing to hurt and kill each other.
And this is not what God meant when he told the people to love the world. And so God sent prophets to explain. And one of the prophets was Ether. Ether was born in a prison, because his grandfather was put in prison, and his father lived his whole life in a prison, and then Ether was born. And even though Ether was born in a prison, he learned to love the world. And not just the easy beautiful things, but the hard, prison things too.
And Ether and the prophets told the people that loving the world is not loving one part of it, or just the beaches, or just the sunlight. But to love all of it, as it passes by. The rocks and the snow, the bees and the honey. And the people, they were always the best part of the world.
The adults were not more important than children. And young bachelors were not better than old couples or widows or widowers or people who were never married. Kings were not more important than queens or peasants. And handsome people were not better than less handsome people.
They were all part of the world. They needed to be loved for what they were. And they needed to be taken care of. And the prophets warned that if they did not take care of the world, they would lose it. And like sand on the beach, the harder they clung to life, the quicker it would drain away. And soon there would be nothing left but dust, and bones, and nothing.
“So try again to love the world,” they said. “But this time, love every bit of it. Because life is not a road trip for a vacation where you are bored or sleep and wait to arrive. It is a sightseeing tour. And you are here now. And every part of the tour has something to love. Even the ending.”
But the people rolled their eyes. “You are only saying that because you are jealous,” they said. “Because you are weak and poor and you will die soon. Look at your ugly clothes, and your worn out sandals, and your wrinkly forehead, and your calloused hands.”
“That is not right,” said the prophets, “We are old. But we love the world more now than ever. It has only gotten better for us. We have children and grandchildren and great grandchildren. It is true that our knees ache and our skin is thin and easily sunburned and we are slow and getting weaker every day. But life is still getting better and better and better.”
“Because loving the world is like hugging a person. You savor the moment, you hold it against your chest, you breathe in and smell it and love it. And then you let it go. And you watch it as it departs. And you do not love it any less but more and more and more. Because you know that is not the end. There will be another day, another hug, another moment to savor and then to let go.”
“You do not need to fear death or cling to the world. Instead, believe in God, and care for the world. And you will make it a better world. And God will transform the world with the touch of His finger. And we will see that every rock and every person is a bright shining thing. And the world will get better and better until it is all finished. And God will stand beside us, and we will hold hands, and never have to let go.”
All artwork by Lauren Blair.
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