I have been stirred, chastened and astonished this week as I read the book ‘Infinity and Beyond: A Love Story without End’ about some fairly new friends of mine, and their terrible experience of coping with their teenage son’s sudden brain melanoma and drawn-out death. Lynette and Mark write with candour and urgency, and as a parent it has made me (especially today as I spent time with our son) more grateful for every moment.
I do not feel that I could do the real-life story justice in a couple of excerpts, but I found the book so wise in so many aspects of spiritual discovery, as well as totally real. Life is about the small details, and they are often the evidence that will incriminate us, if we do not pay attention to them! Living well is an ambition that I seriously aspire to, and know I have so far to go before achieving it!
I have stumbled across a continuation of their story on a blog, and Lynette is writing about heaven:
For Mark and I, it was our faith that carried us through those heartbreaking days, through the agonizing months, through the long years since Mattie died. Far from being a crutch, an escape from reality, our faith has been a lifeline, the foundation of our everyday lives, that enabled us to carry on when we felt like throwing in the towel, and seeing something devastating for us, transformed into something meaningful – for us and others.
We have spent a good deal of time thinking about heaven, more so since our son graduated there. I am so grateful to those people who boldly took time to tell me about heaven, about eternity, about what happens after death. Some of what I learned was not what I particularly wanted to hear as it challenged me with choices to make decisions. But at least I have been told. We try to live out what we believe, though battling against hypocrisies and failures we daily fall flat on our surprised faces.
There are probably as many variations on what heaven is like as there are Christians.. Writer Adrian Plass says in his poem called ‘Heaven’ “When I’m in heaven tell me there’ll be kites to fly…tell me there’ll be friends to meet in ancient oak beamed Sussex pubs…tell me there’ll be seasons when the colours fly, poppies splashing flame through dying yellow, living green and autumn’s burning sadness that has always made me cry…tell me there’ll be peace at last…” That’s as may be, and though I like that particular vision, I cannot say that his or my version is the definitive. Or whether Mark will get to play golf, though he reckons he will!
When it comes down to it, earth is a preparation for heaven. At least, that’s what Christians believe. But we’re also looking for heaven on earth, God’s kingdom come, as Jesus said. This morning, I was praying, and just acknowledging that none of us can fix the intractable problem of our selfishness and the screwed-up state the world is in. While we can be happy in God, knowing His righteousness has rescued us, we cannot be anything but sober about the suffering in the world.
No wonder that in Romans 8 Paul talks about all of creation ‘groaning’ for the revealing of the sons of God. And also, in 2 Corinthians, written at a similar time, ‘we’ are groaning too, 2 Cor. 5:2 “earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven.” As suffering becomes more and more a part of our lives, I believe that the deposit of our inheritance in the faith becomes weightier; our treasure stored up in heaven starts to proliferate and our hearts become pulled there. That does not mean that we disengage from our circumstances, our commitments, and from our calling in the world. It actually recalibrates us. It’s not just our physical bodies that need de-toxing but our spirits too!
I enjoyed my friend’s post today remembering the death of a heroine of hers because I feel in a sober mood. This does not mean that I do not know happiness, but our happiness is always circumscribed, boxed in, by our shortsightedness. We see only a moment. Jesus sees forever, and sees us in eternity with Him. There is a you-shaped gap in God’s heart, and if you do not fill it there will always be an aching void there. We are only truly known and whole when we are reconciled to our Father.
Tomorrow, appropriately, 2 Tim 2:4.