The most vivid picture I’ve ever had of Heaven was in a conversation with my dad when I was ten years old. Dad was talking about how lovely it would be to see my two siblings who died in a plane accident when I was a toddler.
Dad’s imagination caught fire and he began painting a picture of what it would be like to see his children in Heaven: blazing light and unbridled joy — images of Dad and the kids flying through space and shooting sparkling stars out of their hands.
Dad’s colorful description of Heaven whipped my brother and me into a frenzy. We began jumping up and down in the living room, feeling that if we jumped hard enough, we could soar beyond this world.
Three years later, Heaven was the only thing that gave me hope when my dearest friend, Erin, died in a horrific car accident at the age of 15. It left me groping in the dark for assurance that she was still alive somewhere; but unfortunately, Dad’s imagination wasn’t there to rescue me. He and my mom had divorced a year before Erin died and I hadn’t heard from him since. So, the week after I lost Erin, I called my uncle looking for comfort.
“I think Erin is in Heaven,” I told my uncle, just days after Erin died. “I’m not totally sure whether she believed in Jesus though.”
To my shock, my uncle erupted in anger. In a two-hour diatribe, he tore into the Baptist theology of my upbringing and began challenging my unquestioned assumptions about salvation. Erin was in Heaven, he explained, every good person was in Heaven. My backwards view of God was the product of the narrow-minded religiosity my dad had passed on to me.
My childhood faith had seemed so strong until that violently disorienting conversation. I was fragile and defenseless, and I couldn’t withstand the hurricane force of my uncle’s logic (which isn’t threatening to me at all now). In the months to come my uncle’s logic began suffocating my faith; and as my childlike view of Jesus waned, so did my vision of Heaven. If it didn’t really matter how we got to Heaven or whether Jesus was even there, maybe my childhood idea was actually childish. My view of Heaven morphed into a static, one-dimensional world — a faint sketch with no color.
Over the years, godly friends and pastors slowly rehabilitated my faith; but my idea of Heaven remained hazy. All I could vaguely see in my imagination was millions of people in white robes standing before the imposing, blank figure of God that I’d found in the Chick Tracts I had read as a child.
I largely gave up on trying to imagine what Heaven was like and simply held onto the words of the Apostle Paul, who wrote: “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8, NKJV). It also helped to understand that “Heaven,” when it is complete, will actually be Heaven coming down to earth (Revelation 21:1-7). So, I could at least imagine that all of the loveliest things on earth today would one day be trillions of times better and brighter than they are now.
Recently I stumbled across a video on Twitter of a colorblind man who is given special glasses that allow him to see color for the first time. That, I tell you, was a sliver of revelation of how we will react when we finally are delivered out of this dark womb of time and into the eternal presence of Christ.
The video of the colorblind man (below) brings to mind a passage from C.S. Lewis’ The Last Battle, the final book in the classic children’s series The Chronicles of Narnia. All of the main characters have died and entered “Aslan’s Country,” the eternal home of the lion Aslan, who is the Christ figure of the story. Then finally, they meet him face to face:
“And as He spoke, He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”
How I long to begin Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read. I cannot fathom the electric joy that will flow through my whole self — not so much because of the things I see, but the one whom I will see. It almost makes me want to jump up and down like a little boy, trying the best I can to soar into the arms of Jesus.