Heaven. I can only imagine.
For years, I could not see the moon. It was this white blob in the sky that sometimes looked bigger than other times. Books, teachers, and family members told me the shadow of the earth passed over it on a monthly rotation. Poems and literary fiction described the moon as a crescent or gibbous. When I was a child, I thought the whole world was pulling my leg about as hard as the time my aunt told me she could see the United States Flag which Apollo 11 had placed on the moon.
The books and astronomy observatories said there were a lot of stars out there too. Even on a clear night away from the city lights of Tucson, I could only see a handful of stars. If Abraham’s descendants were to be more numerous than he could count, Abraham must not have passed kindergarten. I tried to imagine a sky of twinkling stars, but it didn’t work. The sky must be nothing more than a canopy of dark with a few stars poking holes through the night sky looking down and laughing at my confusion.
Then I had eye surgery.
Now, with my 20/80 vision, I see a waning gibbous moon, a chunk taken out as it wanes into a new cycle. It’s more beautiful and more real than any description any one could have given me.
I saw a star studded night sky. A thousand twinkling lights, more than I could count. Clusters of crystals swept across the sky from southeast to northwest in what I had always heard described as the Milky Way. My best fantasies would have never done reality justice. It was far more beautiful, spacious, loaded, and brilliant than anything I could ever imagine. I stood in the middle of a country field and laughed with delight. I twirled until I was dizzy, trying to grasp in a few minutes what I had missed for so many years. I looked up and up and up again, ordering my neck to stop complaining. The only word I could utter was “Wow!” “Wow!”
If the moon was more than my faded vision allowed me to imagine, if the sky was far more beautiful than my limited brain could piece together, what will it be like when I see Heaven?
I Can Only Imagine
I can only imagine, the song says, but I know from moon watching and star gazing that any thoughts I have will fall hopelessly short of what it really will be like. How will I respond to the glories of Heaven? I don’t know if I dare to imagine. Because it will be so superior to anything I’ve ever dreamed of.
I’ve often heard people wonder about Heaven. Will my puppy dog be there? Will my special someone be waiting for me? Will I be able to continue working at the job I love or explore the hobbies I’ve always wanted to do? Will I really have to sing, play a harp, and play hopscotch from cloud to cloud? And what about the dog that was, well ok, but I really didn’t like her. Will I have to put up with her through eternity? Or will she be a more perfect version of what she was?
Randy Alcorn’s book, Heaven, is filled with these type of questions. Well, except the one about Bad Dog. Randy and I need to have a chat. One Christian cult claims we will enjoy life as we’ve always known, except on a perfect earth stripped of all the bad stuff. Only a select number of special people will enjoy fellowship around the throne of Heaven. I’ve even heard Christians emphasize the New Earth clause of New Heaven and New Earth.
I think I understand why we have this perspective. These are the familiar things. Our minds can’t grasp the unseen realities of Heaven, so we cling to what we know, the earthly life we’ve embraced. I’m not saying we won’t recognize loved ones or that our favorite dog won’t greet us at Heaven’s gates. I don’t know. I do believe Heaven is far more than we can begin to imagine, as different from life here on earth as the inside of a womb is different from life out in the real world for the newborn child.
1 Corinthians 15:36-41 compares this difference between earth and heaven to a seed in the ground and the beautiful plant that comes forth. “just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man” says 1 Corinthians 15:49.
Colossians 3:2 tells us to “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”
2 Cor 4:18 says, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
The loved ones, special pets, and favorite activities are secondary. They dim in importance as we approach the grandeur of Heaven. For now, we have to keep fixing our eyes and our minds on the things we cannot see or understand, relying on faith that it will be totally awesome.
If my recent star gazing is any clue, when I get to Heaven, I’ll laugh with delight and twirl till I’m dizzy at what I discover. I’ll try to absorb in a few moments what I’ve longed to see my whole life, forgetting in the nano-second it takes to look at my Savior’s face that I have all eternity to enjoy it. I’ll look at Jesus and let Him wipe the tears from my face. We’ll laugh together and I’ll fall at His feet, too enthralled to even utter, “Wow.”
All Scripture is quoted from the New International Version of the Bible.