In the dying months of 1986, Metallica was in Europe supporting their seminal album Master of Puppets. In the early hours of September 27th, their tour bus crashed along an icy road in southern Sweden. Bassist Cliff Burton was thrown out of the window and crushed to death in the wreckage. A memorial was erected near the crash site, the headstone inscribed "In Loving Memory of Clifford Burton : February 10, 1962 - September 27th, 1986" And under those, this refrain -
"Cannot the Kingdom of Salvation take me home?"
Can you hear the bitterness in this cry? Can you taste the immense sadness that underlines those words? It encompasses all the weight of human despair, all the regret of a wasted life, all the horror of the unknown. It's the last scream of the damned; a final cry of sorrow as the soul fades into the blackness of eternity. It's the song that erupts from the tortured chest of the one who sees hell in all its infinite misery and realizes that time has run out. C.S. Lewis captures this moment in the third and final chapter of his science fiction trilogy, "That Hideous Strength." In the book, an atheist named Frost is committing suicide. Listen:
"Not till then did his controllers allow him to suspect that death itself might not after all cure the illusion of being a soul-nay, might prove the entry into a world where that illusion raged infinite and unchecked. Escape for the soul, if not for the body, was offered him. He became able to know (and simultaneously refused the knowledge) that he had been wrong from the beginning, that souls and personal responsibility existed. He half saw: he wholly hated. The physical torture of the burning was not fiercer than his hatred of that. With one supreme effort he flung himself back into his illusion. In that attitude eternity overtook him as sunrise in old tales overtakes and turns them into unchangeable stone."
Oh, the tragedy of a life lived without Christ. Oh, the wonder of a forgiving love that washes away all our sin. The Kingdom of Salvation is open to us. We have but to reach out our hand, and it will take us home.