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Some Thoughts on Heaven

June 8, 2011

The other day, my four year old son (Lincoln) and I sat on the floor of his room building Lego spaceships. We were talking about all manner of things, the kind of stream of consciousness conversations that only parents of four year olds understand.

Departing From the silly and futile, Linc looked up at me with a sudden rush of seriousness.

“Dad, I want to go to heaven,” he said.

“I know you do buddy, and one day you will, but right now you need to be here with me and mommy and your sisters because we love you so much.”

“But Dad, I want to go to heaven now and give God and Jesus a big hug and be with them forever.”

I wasn’t quite sure how to respond. How do you tell your son that you’re so selfish you would rather have him here in the painful mess of creation rather than the resplendent presence of God? I mean, I don’t want to discourage his desire to go to heaven but I certainly have no desire for him to go there NOW.

“Some day, son,” I offered in a conciliatory tone, “some day.”

This brief interaction with my son got me thinking about heaven which, honestly, is not something I think about all that often.

Don’t get me wrong, my heart’s desire is to spend eternity in the presence and glory of God. I just don’t spend a lot of time and effort trying to picture it in my mind. For me, there is no fascination or fixation with the idea of pearly gates, streets lined with gold, angels playing golf in the clouds, or whatever other heavenly cliche that we’ve created.

A few weeks ago, an unknown number of people gave all of their attention (and money, in some extremely sad cases) to the “coming” of the kingdom of God in the rapture. The day came and went but the faithful didn’t disappear in an instant; they weren’t taken up to God’s presence to watch everyone else suffer here on earth. While, certainly, I share their hope and anticipation of someday being free from the trappings of life in the flesh, but I can’t help but fear that the constant longing for the presence of God in heaven comes at the expense of recognizing the presence of God here and now.

About 10,000 Fridays (or 2,000 years) ago, the cloth separating you and me from the presence of God was torn in two from top to bottom. Now it’s only shrouds of our own making that obscure the face of the divine.

There are moments when our pride and selfish stubbornness are momentarily forgotten and our hearts are set free to return to the one they know and long for. For me, these moments most often come in worship or adoration, in the full voices of a church singing “glory to God in the highest and peace to His people on earth,” and in the taste of bread and wine turned body and blood. But, the presence of God is not confined to those moments, those are just the ones in which he most actively seeks to break through the clutter of our lives and declare, “I am here!!!” He is found in the simple experience of life’s hardships and joys. He is found in the “least of these,” in our midst and in those we value most dearly.

I understand the preoccupation with heaven. But maybe we should ask if, perhaps, it’s rooted more in our desire to escape, to be in a place where worshiping God is easy, and we’re no longer encumbered by the expectation of loving our neighbor.

Yes, it will be easier in heaven. But that doesn’t mean we get to stop everything and just wait for eternal life to begin. It already has.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. June 8, 2011 3:48 pm

    Fantastic post Chris!

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