Whenever I go on Amazon.com, which is sadly at least two or three times a day, I feel the full weight of the finiteness of our time on earth. Along with having a thing about food, I also love books, which translates into an obsession over my Wish List almost as much as my Netflix queue. I love browsing for books I will never buy and buying books I will never have time to read. But as I sit staring at the mile-high pile of books on my bedside table, I whisper a short prayer that goes something like this “Dear Lord, please help me to live long enough to have more than five minutes at a time to read interesting books. If I could just have a few years of enjoyable reading, Lord, I could go to heaven happy.”
I do realize that this actually borders on sickness and perhaps even heresy. In essence what I am saying is “No, Lord, I don’t want to live in eternal bliss with You in Paradise just yet. Please let me at least finish Team of Rivals (which I wanted to read before President Obama started using it as his new Bible) and all of the works of Elizabeth Gaskell and Charlotte Bronte. Then I think I could go in peace.” I have actually started to have panic attacks when considering how little time we have on earth to do things that are truly pleasurable. When you add up all the teeth brushing, house chores, and waiting in line at the bank, half of your life practically disappears. Not to mention sleeping, eating, and wasting time playing Settlers of Catan online. (Maybe that last one is just me.) But I have had an epiphany. It is as if the heavens have opened and the voices of the angels have spoken to me in perfect harmony saying, “THAT’S WHAT HEAVEN IS FOR, YOU IDIOT!”
I must confess that my theology regarding heaven has been shaped more by Hollywood than Scripture. I have more than once pondered the possibility of being, well, not unhappy in heaven, but perhaps being a bit bored. I have swallowed the picture of robes, singing choirs, and cloud-floating without even thinking about it. I fall into despair over the thought of leaving Jim and the kids behind (not to mention those unread books) and the only time I get really excited about going to heaven is when I think of all the cool people that are going to be there.
But this is all going to change. For one thing, I must change my thinking or face up to my hypocrisy. Here I am gripped with fear when driving through a dangerous neighborhood, and in the same car ride I glibly pontificate on the wonders of heaven to my kids. Perhaps it is the kids who have helped to change my thinking. They talk about heaven a lot and with seemingly little fear of the door through which we all must walk in order to gain entrance. This might be because they haven’t given much thought to death and the fact that to them heaven seems like the zoo, the circus, and Disneyworld all rolled into one. They marvel at the abilities they will have, the idea of having no bedtime, and playing with animals that would gobble them up for a snack on this side of eternity.
Of course, heaven isn’t just about all the great stuff we will be able to do or even the loved ones with whom we will be reunited. It’s about worshiping God, right? And here is where my lack of faith really shows. I have fallen into the Sunday School myth that says worship is what you do on Sunday mornings while wearing panty hose and uncomfortable shoes. What a crock! Worship is playing with a saber-toothed tiger before breakfast and a woolly mammoth after lunch. It’s reading books for a thousand years without getting a headache or needing a nap. It’s the lion eating straw and the child putting his hand in the viper’s nest (I am sure this verse refers to one of my boys.). It’s not some other-worldly experience. It’s this world, only lots, lots better. Worship is enjoying the presence of God and his creation in all its forms. So while I still intend to continue my quest to one day have read all the books on my Wish List and to avoid the avoidable dangers of this world, I am leaving behind my cloudy visions of heaven and planting my feet more solidly in the Kingdom. I am sure Elizabeth and Charlotte would approve.