Monday, February 19, 2018

Foretastes of Heaven

Sometimes, on this earth, we experience moments of absolute wonderful joy, total bliss, perfect peace, or complete and utter happiness. And Christians have this fabulous way of taking these moments and declaring, "This is how it's going to be one day. This. All the time." That is Heaven.

And sometimes, we have moments of complete devastation, terrible trial, deep grief, or complete and utter hopelessness. And Christians have this fabulous way of taking these moments and declaring, "One day, it won't be like this any more." That is Heaven.

It seems that no matter what happens to us in this world, Christians have this way of taking it and turning it toward Heaven, reminding us that there is this coming day when everything will be as God intends it to be, life will be wonderful, we will be whole, joy will be full, and pain will be not even a memory any longer.

It seems that no matter what happens to us in this world, Christians continue to look forward with hope.

It's one of the things I love about Christians, but the truth is that it's only half of the story. And being only half of the story means that this is not always the most helpful way of approaching things.

One of the reasons it's not always helpful is because it places this tremendous distance between our lives and God. Our lives are troubled, trialed, or at the very least, incomplete, lived only in spurts and glimpses and the every-so-often foretaste of Heaven that comes through the brightest days and our greatest yearnings that come through the darkest.

All the while, God does not even sit on His throne. He has one, but He's quite busy off of it, directing the paving of streets of gold, setting pearly gates squarely on their hinges, building rooms onto His mansion, and all of the other things it takes to get Heaven ready for an influx of human inhabitants. Because, you know, priorities...or something.

It creates this space that we poetically refer to as the "not yet," in which we live almost with blinders, trying not to let our eyes become distracted by the realities of life as we know it but keeping squarely focused on what we know about the life that is to come, by promise and by hope.

We end up living so much in tomorrow that when the world cries out for God, wondering why He is nowhere to be found, we almost shrug our shoulders and say, it's cool. He's got this. He's preparing a party at His place for later. Invitation's in the mail.

And all of a sudden, this God, this immanent God who has always dwelt among His people, who loved us so much that He became incarnate in the form of a man to truly live among us, is no longer immanent, no longer near. And we, His people, are the ones who have made Him such. We've put Him in Heaven and told Him to stay there, holding out hope for a tomorrow that has no voice of promise today, when we need it most.

Which means that, push come to shove, we're not even as sure about this Heaven as we claim. How could we be? It's been so long since we have heard Him tell us about it in His own voice.... The God of tomorrow, of eternity, is no longer the God of today; He is, if anything, the God of yesterday, the one who spoke so long ago to tell us these things.

Except...He's not even the God of yesterday. For that would turn us in an entirely different direction.

(Stay tuned.)

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