October 31, 2013

Thinking About Infinity

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What is the issue?

When you think about infinity what pops into your head? Is it darkness? Is it light? Is it God or some other higher being? Or is it nothing?

Does your brain stop there at the idea of ‘infinity’? Do your thoughts hit a wall while anxiety arises and takes your breath away? These are hard questions for a lot, easy for others, and new to some.

When I think about infinity, I think about how much it would suck if there were some kind of life after this. Think about this for a second. Let the thought of never really dying, but always living in some way sit in the front of your mind. Let it wash over you, the idea that there is no end.

I think we, as humans, like endings. Books have endings, TV shows end, you crave the end of a work out; you even want sex to end, at some point. An ending really signifies a whole of something, the completion. When we don’t have endings we feel overwhelmed with emotions and desire for it to just end.

When I was little I use to tell myself, “Self, if we live forever and come back as different things we should be a mermaid. That way we can live on the bottom of the ocean and swim with all the fishes and turtles and sea urchins. We could explore sunken ships and dig up lost treasures.”

I would then go to the pool and practice being a mermaid. I was only five.

When I was 13 I met Jesus, well actually his name was Ricky, but I acted like he was Jesus, and both of these men made me think about infinity again.

Ricky was one of the high school boys who led the middle school Vacation Bible School trip at my church during the summer. I’d seen him around church and would get all weak in the knees and clammy in the palms when he walked by.

He only noticed me because he liked my dad’s car — my dad had a luxury SUV with ‘rims.’ This was the early 2000s so rims were in, like Nelly, Ashanti, and Islamaphobia. I repeat: he only noticed me because my dad paid stupid money for flashy accessories for his flashy car, and I only noticed Ricky because he was 18 and had a six-pack of abs.

One night during Vacation Bible School everyone was asked to come to the main hall at the campgrounds for the nightly service. This night was special; it was time to get some kids saved. I wasn’t saved yet.

The pastor started the service with a prayer and asked everyone to hold their bibles. I had gotten a new bible for this trip that looked like an American Flag. September 11th was still fresh on people’s minds and in commemoration the ‘cool’ thing to do was to get a 9/11 bible that had the American Flag on the outside and stated, “God Will Never Forget” at the bottom of the cover. I have no idea where this bible is now.

During his prayer he began to get excited and shout.

“JESUS! YOU’RE IN THIS ROOM! I WANT YOU TO REACH OUT AND TOUCH THESE KIDS.”

I looked up to see this Jesus, who I knew through Sunday school, but I wanted to see him in person. When I looked up I saw Ricky, he stood with the other counselors against the wall. I smiled, he winked, and my stomach fluttered. Hey, Jesus.

“WHO WANTS TO BE SAVED TONIGHT? WHICH ONE OF YOU IS BRAVE ENOUGH TO BE SAVED RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW!”

Being saved is the first step before baptism in the Baptists church. To be saved all you must do is say a prayer, invite Jesus into your heart, and boom — saved.

“IF YOU WANT TO BE SAVED TONIGHT LOOK UP AT THE FIRST COUNSELOR YOU SEE GO WITH THEM AND BE SAVED!”

I, of course, looked up knowing exactly where to stare. And Ricky was already looking at me. Boom, saved.

“GO WITH WHOMEVER YOU MADE EYE-CONTACT WITH AND BRING JESUS INTO YOUR LIFE! GO!”

The pastor collapsed in his chair and I ran to Ricky. He led me outside to the front steps of the main hall to lead the prayer that was meant to save me.

During those next few minutes Ricky talked to Jesus and welcomed me into the family of God. I don’t remember specifics because all I focused on was not passing out from the excitement of him touching me.

When the prayer finished Ricky looked at me and asked, “What’s Jesus saying to you? What are you feeling?”

I heard nothing beyond the beating of my heart and the blood running through my body, and all I felt was Ricky’s hand on my shoulder.

“I don’t hear anything, Ricky. Is that bad?”

“No, no it isn’t. It takes time, but you’re saved, and Jesus will be with you forever. This was a brave thing you did today… I’m glad you let me be here.”

“Forever? That’s infinity right?”

“Yes, Jesus is infinite.”

As we walked back into the main hall on the campground I felt something different and I imagined infinity.

My heart stopped beating rapidly from Ricky, and his hand was no longer on my shoulder. I began to feel overwhelmed and anxious. I saw no light but only darkness. And instead of seeing Jesus, instead of seeing Ricky, I saw no one in this infinity — I saw myself, by myself.

I didn’t see mermaids with fishes and turtles and sea urchins and finding lost treasures.  And Jesus still said nothing to me. I was alone in this infinity.

Now when I think about infinity I still feel these same emotions. And as I reflect I see Ricky and I remember smells and images from that Vacation Bible School trip that one summer in the early 2000s. In infinity I see backwards, because looking forward is like looking into the sky on a dark, clear night. When you see stars, moons, and planets come in and out of focus, but what is most in focus is the darkness. No Ricky. No Jesus. No mermaid. Just darkness and the flickering of places unknown.

And within this unknowing I find myself, by myself and realize that mermaids swimming with fishes and turtles and sea urchins do not come after this, and that I was only five, and Ricky was only a boy, and Jesus is only something I think about when someone brings it up. A lot like infinity. TC mark

Read another essay from Zach Stafford in Thought Catalog Books’ new anthology, Boys, here.

TC Site

image – Shutterstock

Zach Stafford

Zach Stafford is originally from Tennessee and currently lives in Chicago where he works in HIV prevention and …

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