Maybe you weren’t a kid when the Left Behind books came out—but I was, and they scared me out of my little pink pajamas. OK, not literally. But I was afraid they would.
I was 4 years old when the first Left Behind book was published, and I remember the surrounding craze all too well. I have an early memory of hearing a woman call into our local Christian radio station. She admitted to the announcer that while she went through her nightly list of prayer requests, she found herself asking for the eternal well-being not only of her kindred but of Buck, Chloe, and Rayford as well.
The end-times stories were piped via radio into my household, which had no established eschatological views at the time. So in my pre-salvation years I drew pictures of what I imagined Chloe Steele really looked like. I walked around with an imagination imbued with phantasmagorias of old men vanishing from airplanes and leaving naught but their false teeth and cardigans behind. Whenever I saw a pile of laundry on the bathroom floor I feared that one of my relations had disappeared and left me alone. When the sun came up over the hill or a strong wind shook our house, I was terrified that it might be Jesus coming back, a reality too bright, unknown, and terrifying for me even to think about.
To me neither side of the coin seemed good. I did not wish for the Judge of the Universe to escort me into the blinding sky. I also did not wish for Him to abandon me on a chaotic planet without my mother and father. So instead of curling up in bed and fearing monsters and aliens, I curled up and feared the returning God.
After I came to understand more about God in my adolescence, I found my nighttime terrors and prayers for mercy replaced with sincere petitions that Christ would return soon. During seasons of heartbreak in college, I saw the Second Coming not as the dreaded dissolution of all my earthly relationships but as the only final cure to my loneliness.
I recently did a devotional exercise that asked the reader to write down as many characteristics of a good father as she could think of. I filled out the allotted lines with these words: “trustworthy, protective, gentle, strong, faithful, full of love, silly, smart, discerning, wise, patient, comforting, firm, decisive, surprising, joyful, confrontational, kind, fun, celebratory, a good counselor, full of insight.” My choices came from my experience of my own good father, whose virtues I used to fear would be sucked up in the divine snatching. But all those descriptors are true of my father only because he looks like his Father, God.
Even in dark times now, I find myself so comfortable on earth that the return of Christ frightens me. The event will be so huge, so different, so awful in judgment. When I begin to think like this I tell myself the truth: You are not going to a place of terror. Christ has made you perfect, God is your Father, and you are going home.