To be honest, this is a bit unusual for me. Heaven is typically a subject upon which I don’t normally like to dwell. Yet, in the past two months, I find myself (with increased frequency) meditating on my eternal home.
I suppose I’ve always known about heaven. After all, I began attending a church when I was two years old, and they tend to talk about it quite a bit there. In fact, when I was around ten years old, it was one of the major selling points used when trying to convince someone how much better their life could be with God vs. without. However, looking back, my early years in walking with God were spent pretty much ignoring the thought of eternity. Or, at least, my eternity. And much of that was motivated (as many things in my life have been) by fear. I was afraid of heaven.
I would love to tell you that this was a fear born simply out of immaturity. After all, I became a Christ-follower when I was ten years old. I should grow up and out of such a thing. I should step into being a “man of God” wanting nothing more than to join my creator in His home which was prepared exclusively for me. However, my immaturity was mixed with a rather large dose of ignorance, conceiving my fear.
Sometimes, I imagined heaven as depicted in old warner bros. cartoons. You know, Wyle E. Coyote or Foghorn Leghorn would die, rise out of their body with wings, a halo and harp, and join those of a similar ilk to sit on their own cloud and spend eternity plunking out melodies. Other times, I imagined it as a place where millions of people (all wearing white robes, of course) are grouped together in a common location pointing toward God’s throne. Here, everyone would spend the rest of eternity bowing and singing. (With all of those robes, I would hope heaven wasn’t a drafty place.) And still, sometimes, I would imagine heaven as a place detached from, but still in sight of, earth. Here, I would spend my time watching over loved ones as they live their lives and search their searches.
I hate all three of these scenarios.
The thought of spending eternity engaged in any of these three activities makes me want to run screaming in the other direction. My problem (and I’ve only recently realized this) was in my perception (this could be true for most things in my life). You see, I was viewing heaven more as a place and less as a completion. I was viewing heaven more as a schedule and less as a restoration. And because of that misunderstanding, I’ve been missing out on a key truth about God: God wants nothing more than to finish what He started in me.
Most of this line of thinking has been born out of the uncertainty I’ve been experiencing for the past three months as I’ve been looking for what God has next for me. Since I was about fourteen, my biggest desire (and naturally, the absence of being my biggest fear) has been to belong somewhere. To be in a place where I didn’t have to be afraid I’d be made to leave. To be in a place with people I didn’t have to worry would abandon me.
To be home.
In the past five years, I’ve moved my life two times. Should God desire for me to step out in faith and follow him to some uncharted territory again, it would make three. Each time, I’ve left behind people I’ve grown to love. Each time, I’ve left behind places I’ve lived in, investments I’ve grown, tears I’ve cried, blood I’ve bled, and mountains I’ve conquered, never knowing if I’d ever see them again. And each time it’s hurt. And so, as the baggage claim turns round, I pick up my emotional baggage and soldier on. Every time I leave, I leave feeling disappointed and scared: disappointed that the place I leave behind wasn’t home, and scared that I’ll never find it. That I’ll spend the rest of my life like the Incredible Hulk, doomed to walk the earth alone.
In the past, each time major change has come in my life, I’ve realized that I’m not home yet. And it breaks my heart. Every time…
And here I am again.
Three Sundays ago, when I was up at Saddleback for the weekend, I sat in on one of the main services. Rick was speaking on “The Reality of Heaven”. As I sat and listened, a few things he said began to reinforce some things that had already been bumping around inside my head.
I’ve never felt I have more in common with Bono than right now. I search and search and search, but I still haven’t found what I’m looking for. And I’m not supposed to… yet. You see, God created me to be in an intimate, naked relationship with Him. But that relationship was severed with the introduction of sin (a ton of it, mine) into the world. And, even though Christ’s death and resurrection provided us the forgiveness necessary to go back to God, we’re still only able to get a taste of what he intended that relationship to be… for now. Heaven is the next stage in the completing of our restoration to God.
It’s natural (and normal) for us to feel like we’re missing something in life. We all search for meaning. We all search for a place to belong. We were created in such a way as to realize we’re not whole and then to seek out our identity, our worth (value), in something outside of ourselves. The problems come when we think we can find it in other people, in possessions, in pleasure, or in praise. None of these things last. We were meant to find it in God.
And, because of that, we can never really complete our search until we arrive home. A place where the Bible says our true citizenship lies (Philippians 3:20). A place that God has been preparing for us (Matt. 25:34, John 14:2-3). And so, in realizing this, my thoughts of heaven have turned away from fear, and turned toward longing.
I want to be with the one who knows me better than anyone else. I want to be with the one who loves me more than I’ll ever fully know. I want to be with the one who will never abandon me. I want to be in a place I’ll never have to leave. I want to be made whole by being where I was created to be: in the presence of God.
"I believe in the kingdom come. Then all the colors will bleed into one, bleed into one. Well yes I’m still running.
You broke the bonds and you loosed the chains. Carried the cross of my shame, of my shame. You know I believed it.
But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for…
There’s no place like home…