By: Woodrow Odom Lucas
As a youngster, I attended an Episcopalian Church. I was an acolyte and sung in the choir, and really enjoyed church, but I had little to no conscious comprehension of God or God’s love for me. I more had a sense of justice, karma, and compassion, but I really did not identify with a personal God. As a teenager, I excelled in life, and experimented with drugs to get a sense of a “higher reality” but still did not really have a consciousness of God. I never talked about God or thought about God. Yet when I wrote poetry almost as a subconscious impulse God would come up as a part of my messages.
When I was nineteen years old, while attending Northwestern University, I was in my parents basement watching Ben Hur and when the shadow of Jesus’ Cross fell on Ben Hur’s leprosy ridden sisters and healed them, I broke down in tears and threw my hands up to the ceiling and said, “My whole life is yours.” Still even in that moment, I had little sense of what I had done. But after that, I started having subtle mood swings and could feel painful sensations in my stomach. Throughout college, my knowledge of God grew. I started feeling the Holy Spirit not knowing what it was. But it would guide me into truths. It showed me the injustices of this world through my course work in Sociology and Political Science at Northwestern. And I would feel the Holy Spirit whenever I wrote poetry. The Holy Spirit would come upon me and I would write stream of consciousness. But I still didn’t have a a definitive sense of what or who God was. I had a hostility for Christendom because of the hypocrisy of the Christian right. And I was convinced that God could not be contained to one religion. I suppose one might have defined me at this point as a pluralistic agnostic who was guided by the Holy Spirit.
When I graduated from Northwestern, I married my college sweetheart and had my first child, Autumn. I also joined a church and gave my life to Jesus. This was when I first encountered Universalism. I was reading the scriptures and I came upon John 14:6 where it says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the father but by me,” and I thought to myself, “Well if that’s true then he’ll save us all for sure.” But as I started becoming more immersed in the culture of my church and I accepted my call to preach the Gospel I quickly forgot this revelation and the way the Holy Spirit touched me when I thought it. I quickly became indoctrinated in the notion that all who didn’t confess Jesus before death would writhe in torment forever. As I came to this understanding, my yearning to preach the gospel grew exponentially. I was on buses and trains and sidewalks preaching Jesus as Lord. Everywhere I went, I was asking people,” Do you know Jesus as Savior?”
And then one day, I was ministering to a prostitute and man in a drunken state said, “Don’t you know that hell is just a disinfecting place.” When this man said this statement, I felt the Holy Spirit all over my body. But it was as if my desire to become a big time Christian preacher and my comfort at the acceptance that I had in the Christian community overrode this sensation that what the man was saying was true, and I turned to the prostitute that I was ministering to and I said, “Now that was a false prophet.” As time continued, I began to experience demonic oppression and mental illness symptoms and I had to move back in with my parents in Omaha, Nebraska. This was a very dark period in my life. But was truly the beginning to me embracing Universalism once and for all.
While living in Omaha, I was too afflicted with suffering to Evangelize and so one day, I grabbed my wife’s hand and I said, “God, please write every human being’s name who has ever existed, exists right now, or ever will exist on the earth in the lamb’s book of life.” I believe that this prayer was beginning of the scaffolding of eternal hell beginning to fall off of me. Because I was able to see that if I touched and agreed with someone in a prayer for all to be written in the lamb’s book of life, then that negated eternal hell completely. Still, I suffered for more time. And then when my suffering was intense, I prayed another prayer that reflected the scaffolding of eternal hell dismantling within me. I prayed to God, “God if people in hell are suffering worse than I am right now, then please free them from hell as soon as possible.”
After that, scriptures started opening up to me, and I began to see Universalism in the Bible. The verse from 1 Peter where Peter states, “For this reason was the Gospel preached to them that are dead, that they may be judged according to the body but live according to God in the Spirit” opened up to me and convinced me that human beings had longer than their earthly life times to confess Christ. Then scriptures like Philippians chapter 2 started to speak to me in a different way. When Philippians 2 states, “For this reason God has given him a name above every other name that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow and tongue confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father,” I started to realize that that bowing and confessing is not an involuntary forced confession, but rather an awe filled and joy filled confession and bowing that stems from seeing the true glory of the Savior revealed. It was at this point, that I surrendered to the truth that God has and will save all. And on May 31st, of the year 2002 I wrote the poem below as a declaration to my new found hope.
I Dream a Dream
Dear friend my brother true days end approaches,
I can hear the wind chimes whisper as the summer storm encroaches.
I can hear the crickets laughing and the locusts telling tale,
The neighbor’s dog is barking and blue sky is growing pale.
And as the clouds begin to crowd us and the dusk begins to rise,
Look at me dear brother closely and see tears well up my eyes.
For a kingdom in me stirring speaks of beauty just outside.
And just as simple as a sunrise or the changing of the tide, I Dream a Dream.
Dear brother if you had been there through the trials discontent,
When I was locked up hearing voices and my will to live was spent.
When cold stillness was a nightmare and the silence spoke of screams,
And I could find no peace about me as my thoughts would fade to fiends.
If you had been there in that winter where my heart was bitter cold,
And my soul was filled with torment at the thought of growing old,
You would know then of this laughter.
I Dream a Dream.
I dream a dream of children laughing and this summer storm that’s coming,
Of raging winds and crackling thunder and joy’s bright river running.
I dream a dream of Pennsylvania, running up a mountain’s stream.
And as I jump from rock to rock and see the running water’s gleam.
I Dream a Dream.
I dream a dream of healing wonders and of freedom to the lame,
I dream a dream of wild fury and of things I long to tame,
I dream a dream of us as brothers from sea to sea and land to land,
Us framed in love and locked in laughter as we embrace clasped hand in hand.
I dream a dream that every baby that’s been taken from the womb,
Would come to one day know their Savior and be saved from coming doom.
I dream a dream of Sunday boat rides and of Saturday ice cream,
I Dream a Dream.
I dream a dream of river’s power welling up from deep inside,
And of the joy to see in splendor all the saints of old that died.
I dream a dream of Dickens’ endings and of Langston’s poetry,
I dream a dream of Maya Angelou and Coltraine’s reverie.
I dream a dream of Friday card games,
And of rafting in white water.
I dream a dream of morning fishing and of playing with my daughter.
I dream a dream of days spent working at a job you work and love,
I dream a dream of clear night twilight from the twinkling stars above.
I dream a dream of world cup soccer where everybody wins,
I dream a dream of Jesus Christ, his love that saves me from my sin.
I dream a dream of all night dancing to the sounds of latin beat,
I dream a dream of saints on fire bearing witness in the street.
I dream a dream of life dear brother, a life I almost gave away,
I dream a dream of second chances and the hope of dawning day.
And you dear friend come join me,
Come and dream this dream with me,
And we will be as sons of light for all eternity.
For 15 years I have been a Universalist. And I have been through many trials, tribulations, joys, highs, lows, and epiphanies. But always, I return to the sublime sound of all people praising love in unison at some point over the course of eternity. Different songs, different understandings, different personalities, but one sound of Joy! It is for this reason, that I spread Universalism even more than I spread Jesus. Because Jesus is Lord no doubt, but people need to know that there is someone in existence who loves them enough and is powerful enough to ensure their eternal happiness. And this eternal happiness is not just for some, but for all!! Amen!!