It's hard for us, this knowledge that we have that we are a people created for eternity while we are also a people who have been told so very little about what eternity looks like. We think that if we really are citizens of heaven, then we ought to be given a glimpse of what our lives are supposed to look like. That heaven ought to be painted on the backs of our eyelids so that every time we close our eyes, we know what home looks like.
But the truth is that all we have right now is a promise of heaven. And it seems, this side of it, that that's all we're going to get.
A number of persons in the Bible died and came back to life. So we assume that means they saw the kingdom of heaven, the Kingdom of God, but none of them told us anything about it. God didn't let them.
We are not the first people of God to live in this tension.
Remember Israel? Remember when they were wandering through the desert on their way out of Egypt? They knew they were headed toward Canaan, toward a land that God had promised them. It was a land flowing with milk and honey, the land their fathers came from more than four hundred years earlier. They knew it was marked with the graves of their great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparents. They knew it was full of wells that their ancestors had dug. They knew the story of covenants made and promises kept. But none of these men had ever seen it.
So they called it the Promised Land - the land (and the goodness) that God had promised to them.
But God...called it their home land.
Homeland. The land from which a people has come. The land where they grew up and created memories and established themselves. The land that belonged to them. The land they were created for and that was created for them. Generations of Israel had never seen this land, had never lived there, had never even set foot on it. All they had was stories about it, and they looked forward to Canaan. It was their promise.
Yet God said it was their home. God said that as much as they looked forward to it, they could also look back on it - back on the covenants made, the promises kept, the wells dug. God said this was the place that created them as much as it is the place that called to them. It was their promise, yet, but it was also their foundation. Their very existence arose from this place that they'd never seen.
It seems strange, when you read slowly, to hear God call this their home land. How can it be their home if they've never even been there? If they don't know anything at all about it except what God and His story have told them? How is it home without a single meal cooked or eaten, a single night slept, a single photograph on the wall or even a postcard to remember it by?
Still, God says, it is home.
And He says the same to us about heaven. About eternity. About the resurrected life. It's our promise, yes, but it's also our home.
And as we stand here in the wilderness, sojourning from here to there, that's the tension that we have to figure out how to live in. With nothing but stories and promises of Canaan, the very place we have come from and to which we are going.