Thursday, February 04, 2010

Think Heaven


My view of Heaven has radically changed in the past year and a half. When Joey departed earth, I had a dismally small view of Heaven--not that I knew that. In hindsight, I can see that I viewed it as a blandly mysterious, relatively colorless place, where people wait things out till the end of the world. It took me more than a few days to mentally transfer his spirit there, so abrupt was his departure. And then, I wasn't comforted by my notion of it at all. All I could feel was the deep gaping void of his absence and a shattering sense that we all had been cheated of his life, all of us including Joey. As time has passed, I still conclude that we were cheated, but now I'm not so certain that he was. Now I'm thinking he's the lucky one, he's the leader, and like a kid at Disneyland, he was passed to the front of the line for a still unknown reason, and he's loving every minute of it. He's supremely alive in an incredibly, indescribably wonderful way.


What does it mean to be alive in Heaven? I know the specific verses about Heaven, but they are, in my opinion, very thin on description. I was initially discouraged by this because I had not developed my imagination about Heaven. I couldn't picture what Joey was doing and I secretly felt it must not be much if God didn't bother to describe it.


But bit by bit, new light has dawned. Scripture now reads like a new book to me. Old familiar words that I had taken for granted, have taken on new life and meaning. What I notice in a new way as I read , what pops out at me now, are all the verses on eternal life. Everywhere, everywhere, verses and promises and encouragement based on the idea of eternal life. Few descriptions of Heaven, but many, many promises about eternal life, over and over again. Jesus doesn't explain what it is, but He relentlessly elevates it as the ultimate prize. It occurred to me that eternal life is not some space-agey place out in the stars that needs to be described. But it is this life, only the best of this life, the perfect part originally created by God before sin, continuing on. In a better way, in a better place, with better people, and with our beautiful God in the center of it all. Paradise.


My favorite verse is this one from John 11:25-26:


Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"


Those words tell me that death for a believer in Christ, like my son Joey, is merely a matter of geography--alive, but in a different place. Though we are suffering loss, Joey isn't. He simply shed a fragile skin, but he's alive, he never died, he lives in spite of dying--however you say it, it's good news. I think I thought I believed that before Joey departed, but then the unthinkable happened and the reality of the death of our beloved was so much more horrible than I ever imagined, I just wasn't sure of anything anymore.


If God has done anything in me since Joey left, it's been to re-shape my view of Heaven. Over and over again, I see and hear things that rebuild my confidence in its reality. I'm taking it personally. I believe God is on a campaign to convince me of the reality of Heaven. And it's not just from His Word, which is ultimately powerful, but He is corroborating His Word from nature, from history, from music, from movies, from the longings of our hearts for perfection, beauty and love.


It's safe to say it's a conviction now. I don't doubt it anymore. I don't dread it anymore. It's vivid and full of life and creation. It's better to me than earth, this place that I used to love so well that I tried to squeeze every bit of life out of it. I confess I mistook it for heaven and counted on it too much for my happiness. I've had to do quite a bit of reorganizing my life around some new truth. But now I'm certain that the place of my dreams lies in my future. And now, more often than not, I'm restlessly biding my time for my Homecoming day, and instead of longing for Joey to return, I long to go there and be with him.


10 comments:

Lori Ignacio said...

*chicken skin (aka "goose bumps") and tears*.....
Thank you Karen for helping all of us to realize Heaven more!! To think that it will be a place that is probably a million times better than our best day here on earth!! I think about some of my best, most fun, most heart warming days here on earth and then I think about how those won't even compare to a day in heaven! Amen!! What a comforting feeling that is. I wish you didn't have to live with out Joey until that day....but I am thankful that when that day comes you will NEVER have to live without Joey again!! Love you so much!! xoxo

Jenny said...

beautifully written. Thank you.

Maisha Bonnie said...

wow...that is amazing, Karen!! Yes, Joey is in such unspeakable joy right now :-) how cool.
I love you.

michael, ciara, mikaela and zachary said...

love you, love your reminder to us.

Daisy said...

Karen, I am blown away by your writing.

"he's the leader, and like a kid at Disneyland, he was passed to the front of the line for a still unknown reason, and he's loving every minute of it."

It's funny to read this as that is essentially what occurred to me when I read your post about Joey (My Son, the Genius) a little while back though I didn't feel right saying it; felt kinda pushy, if you know what I mean. Basically, it was not a thought that I'd reasoned out from the post but rather, an impression that simply came to me after reading about him. That's why I mentioned something about his sense of adventure.

I remember reading a Larry Crabb book a few years ago where he recounted an incident where his wife received a negative result from a cancer test and how they'd been overjoyed by the news. It occurred to him after that, in the final analysis, it was a sort of postponement and that one day, the news would not be good as it will be for us all. He also realized that we want Heaven now on Earth and that is just not the case.

karen gerstenberger said...

This is very beautiful, and beautifully expressed. Thank you for illuminating your view of Heaven & sharing it with us. It's a gift.

I am thankful that God has given you this hope and joy (is that too much to read into your words?) in what you now know in your heart to be true. He is so tender and so faithful. XO

A Maui Blog said...

Beautifully written Karen. A lot of us who have not experienced a loss of someone truly truly close to us have not fully thought of what Heaven might be really like ... God, through His Words (and in your heart) has revealed to you a glimpse of the beauty of Heaven.... and you know it's even beyond that ... it's an unspeakable beauty I suppose....

Ahhh... heaven! "Thank you Jesus that you made it possible for us to enter such as awesome place. And someday we will all meet there - all that you have redeemed with your blood..."

Love to you,
Liza

Anonymous said...

Karen, Well now I have opened my eyes to what you had to say. We are not given the choice to plan our life. The only thing we can plan in going to heaven. I smile when I think of where all our loved
ones are at. I feel guilty at times when I miss them here. It was not God's plan to keep them on this earth. To soon, yes for us but not for them. Thank you for opening your heart.
Love Sharon

Anonymous said...

Hi Karen,
One of my favorite scriptures contemplating Heaven was that Jesus Himself is the one preparing a place for us. He made all of creation in just six short days and yet He is preparing a place for us during our short lifetime on this earth. I think that must be some amazing place!
Gary

John 14 "Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many mansions. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?

Anna Flowergardengirl™ said...

Well I read this and thought--Cool! Let's go! Let's just go on and be with Joey! I'd like to just up and go before any more suffering by anyone. Let's just on and cross over to the other side. Oh what rejoicing!! Lord I'm having me a hallelujah time right now just thinking about it. God would not have that word rejoicing in the bibile so much and then leave it out of heaven. Mercy no! Come on Karen--let's go see Joey!