A blog about the life of the Balentine family: Adam, Amy, Teddy, Simon, Thomas, Peter and Goldie

Sunday, March 30, 2014

On heaven

One of the many uncomfortable aspects of life and faith Simon has forced me to dissect and to think about is heaven.  

At age 31, you don’t think much about the end of your life.  Sure, I have sought to understand Jesus’ promise of eternal life in heaven - a promise for any who would accept him as Lord and follow him.  Just because I have faith in this promise doesn’t mean its an easy thing to think about.

Life is mostly fun when it isn’t tough.  Our days may presently have an undercurrent of sorrow, but we are happy in our family, our home, our memories, and so on.  The happiness of this life must come to an end, and that is a scary thought.  Prior to knowing Simon, I avoided thoughts of heaven.  I didn’t want to think about not being with Amy.  I didn’t want to think about this life slipping away.  It is so much easier to just avoid thinking about complicated things like life, heaven, hell and death.  These topics require uncomfortable thought and conversation, and ultimately a leap of faith once you are seized by convicting realities.  So we drift to the here-and-now, and what makes us happy in this moment to avoid challenging thoughts of eternity.
C.S. Lewis says in Mere Christianity, “The problem is not simple, so the answer is not going to be simple either.”  I’ll steal this theme for my own purposes and ask rhetorically - the problem of death is not simple, so why would we expect that what comes after we die to have a simple explanation?  Understanding heaven is a complicated process, and we fear things that aren’t fairly self-evident.

I believe we are given glimpses of heaven with…

…the first kiss with your love
...sorrowful tears shared with your love
…an amazing meal with the perfect company
…laying eyes on your newborn baby girl or boy for the first time
…reaching the summit of a mountain and staring at the valley below
…the smell of bacon being cooked over an outdoor campfire
…the combination of a perfect song, awesome location, a good mood, and great weather
…experiencing your child’s laughter for the first time
…being a part of team that wins a championship
…achieving a physical goal by pushing yourself beyond your limits
...perfectly tacking a sailboat, and feeling the wind seize the sail and propel the vessel
…watching an unreal, vibrant sunset dissipate over the ocean as day welcomes in night
…memories of your childhood summer escapades

Our memories indicate that we have all been given a taste of God’s perfect Kingdom.  These tastes only leaves us longing for more.  Webster’s defines nostalgia as, “pleasure and sadness that is caused by remembering something of the past and wishing that you could experience it again."  The very essence of nostalgia is an urge created by knowing that a moment relived is impossible.

What would these awesome memories be without the painful ones?  And what is heaven without hell?  It would be so convenient if morality and truth were relative, and we all simply went to heaven when we died.  That seems like too simple an answer.  The most simple of all afterlife views seems to be that nothing happens to us other than becoming worm food, thus shattering our nostalgic dreams and rendering this whole existence meaningless.  To me, the "worm food" theory is not only hopeless, but fit for someone content with ignorance.

Thinking of hell is scary.  In order to think of hell we have to think of judgement.  In order to think of judgement we have to have at least a vague understanding of how one could be judged in the eyes of God.  If we judge others we begin to think that those we love may be rejected.  If they are rejected, then how could we (as fellow sinners) ever measure up to God's "standard?"

We’re all off the hook on measuring up though.  None of us measure up, and the Bible tells us that’s OK.  None of us will ever work hard enough or be good enough to receive God’s grace.  It's free to all who surrender their own will, and allow themselves to be transformed by the Word of God.  None of us are too broken for restoration.  This further gives us assurance that we’re off the hook on judging each other.  

I long for that childhood feeling of lying face-up on a warm driveway, staring at the stars on a clear summer night while feeling safe, content and carefree.  I have “pre-nostalgic” longings to watch Simon’s eyelids fight sleep as the safety of my arms and the rhythmic rocking chair take his mind into a dreamworld for an afternoon nap.  I also long for the time when I will run through green fields in the sunshine with Simon.  These longings are nostalgic, and therefore unattainable.  Only heaven - only the saving grace of Jesus Christ - can fill the void created by these yearnings.  And now I yearn heaven far more than I fear death.


There is so much hope in the promise of heaven.  The reality of God’s love revealed through this promise should truly humble us all.  It should also cause us to seek answers, and get over our fear of understanding what this “new life” will hold.

~Adam

P.S. We did 3D imaging of Simon last week, and it was a very cool experience. Amy plans to post a few images of this soon!

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