Thursday, February 04, 2010
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.