Realized eschatology, if you’ll pardon my French, is a term that describes the “already/not yet” aspect of the “end of the world.” In other words, some theologians suggest that the eschaton—the end—has elements of both the present and the future in it. The term came back to me yesterday as we returned to our old apartment to take care of things the movers left behind. (And “left behind,” I realize, isn’t really a biblical eschatological concept at all.) Joined by our daughter, I felt a bit resentful of her time being taken from our new home to spend in the old. I felt an almost adulterous desire to leave the old and cleave to the new—hadn’t we already paid, and overpaid, for that apartment many times over? The house, on the other hand, is new (to us) and still requires much attention.
As we organized the remaining items, broke down boxes we didn’t use this time around, and waited for the Got Junk guys to arrive and haul it away, I noticed our daughter gazing wistfully at the empty space that had once had our imprint all over it. It dawned on me that she’d spent her teenage years here—after the Nashotah House debacle, this was the place she’d lived the longest. This empty apartment was, for her, home. I began to feel insensitive about my earlier anxiety to leave. We all live between at least two worlds—our pasts make us who we are in the present. The world of our teenage years is fraught with emotion and memory. The world looked so different at that time, as I sometimes forget.
Moving is one of the most stressful situations human beings encounter. We have a love/hate relationship with our past. To me the apartment represented a place we occupied out of a kind of desperation. Five states to the west, we had to move to New Jersey with little money and tons of boxes—one of them Pandora’s, with hope nestled inside. We told ourselves the apartment was temporary—maybe a year—only until we could buy a house. Twelve months turned into a decade, then more, with each year accreting memories in every crack and corner. Part of us will always be in that apartment, for every place people have lived before is haunted. On our way back to our new home at the end of the day, we were each lost in our thoughts. Perhaps not so much realized eschatology as experienced reality, we’d spent a day in a present that will never fully arrive.