We are restored.
Images of heaven in the Bible are hard for me to get excited about. I’m not all that into jewels and gold and mansions and stuff. I don’t understand the images of horses and scrolls and angels. Other images of heaven rendered by humans are equally unexciting or baffling.
Let’s imagine for a moment the Thomas Kinkade, Hallmark Hall of Fame Movie version of heaven…everything has a cozy, soft glow, and flowers of every color can be found in one yard and even on one bush. There is a perpetual sunset. Every house is a cottage with warm glowy lights inside, beckoning you in to get toasty by the fire and drink hot cocoa with marshmallows. Jesus is your best friend who sits by the fire to ask you attentive and caring questions about your day. Every relationship is as dewy as the shiny lawns. Spouses look at each other with G-rated affection and never argue. People smile a lot. Everyone is happy. Children dance in the yard and wave streamers and only laugh. Neighbors bring each other pot pies and everyone has a satisfying job with a good income. Everyone gets along because no one disagrees.
Is that what we were designed for? Is that what we’re destined to?
God, I hope not. I think heaven is Eden 2.0. I’ll take a few liberties in imagining heaven as Eden restored…
It’s wild. You give the lions a respectful distance unless they approach you. You know that there are fungi that will kill you if you eat them but you remember without a guidebook which ones they are and successfully avoid them. You realize that rainbows have 47 different hues instead of the 7 you saw before. Your ear can distinguish new octaves that it never heard before. Instead of being overwhelmed by your new eyes that see and your new ears that hear, all 100% of your brain is used to process and absorb and delight in your world. You know that your body will go to mush if you just sit around and eat twinkies all day, but you don’t want to sit around and eat twinkies. Grapes and broccoli have more flavor than you ever noticed before and you don’t want to eat anything else. You want to move and feel the strength of your body and enjoy it. Some people train for and run marathons and although it’s exhausting and some are faster than others, everyone wakes up the day after the race refreshed, with no aches or lingering soreness.
You’re vaguely aware that your Adam sometimes annoys you in the way he leaves his towel on the floor after his bath, but you’re so in love that you don’t care. You feel wholly connected to him and petty little habits don’t bother you enough to mention. Your love is passionate and fulfilling and complete. You have a history together and no fear about the future and you choose every moment to love him fully. You are blessed with kids and you always choose grace and kindness. Your kids know no shame because you know no shame. Your kids always choose grace and kindness because they are complete and loved.
Jesus is the life of the party. Literally. His life fills up all of the empty spaces in peoples’ hearts so there are no empty spaces in peoples’ hearts anymore. You are in awe that Jesus would ever talk to you and that he even knows your name, but at the same time you have never felt closer to anyone in your life. You are overwhelmed with love for this God-man and gratitude and most of all, peace. Jesus comes to your neighborhood for dinner every night and everyone gathers at a neighbor’s house and it’s a big party. You hear that he also goes to other neighborhoods for dinner every night and you’re not quite sure how that works but it doesn’t matter.
Nobody is poor or needs anything because everyone shares their stuff, their time, their talents. Artists get to paint, write, design, sing, all day long and their work feeds the souls of those that work in other ways. Some peoples’ entire job is to walk around telling other people how good they’re doing at their work. People work because they enjoy it and it fulfills them and incidentally, it benefits others. People don’t radiate happiness exactly, but rather contentment and purpose and peace. Always peace. You are at peace with yourself at all times, and your soul is at peace with your Creator, and you give peace to all that you connect with. And Jesus himself is your peace. People don’t always agree, but there is always peace.
People say that heaven will be perfect, whether in the Hallmark sense of nauseating niceness or in the sense that we will be superhumans with superpowers and desire nothing other than to sing worship songs all day. I don’t know if that’s true. Maybe it is. But my sense tells me that heaven will be a lot more like earth than we think. I think there will be struggles in gardens in the night, but we will always choose life and grace. I think there will be tears, but they will always be wiped away by a loving hand.
For a time I didn’t believe in God. I tried not to, at least. But I realized after awhile that my disillusionment and disappointment with the God-story I had been given revealed a longing for a different God-story. For God himself. I couldn’t find a place for things like wonder, longing, and that feeling I got when I finished an amazing novel or was moved to tears by a piece of music, apart from God. All of that belongs to this earth, yes, but I sensed that it originated somewhere outside this earth in its current state.
Heaven reinstates the originals. It restores us to our fullest sense, our fullest expression of humanness. We get glimpses of heaven now, and these restore our faith in ourselves and our purpose and our God.
Francis Schaeffer called us humans “glorious ruins.” I have always loved this description, except I think it is more accurate in reverse. For we are not ruins. Not in our truest state. We are, instead, ruinous glories. We will be restored one day. And we see glimpses even now.
It is finished.
We are restored!