Heaven is our soul’s greatest longing and its’ single worst fear. Our utmost longing for we can sometimes glimpse its’ shadow in the deep notes of a cello, in the glorious colors of a sunset by the sea, and in the eagle’s graceful flight, as it soars into the wind. Yet heaven is also our soul’s most terrible fear, for it knows that it cannot possibly deserve or earn what it so craves for, and if it could, it knows not where. Such is mankind’s excruciating dilemma, as it plays out endlessly, day after day, in the lives of us all.
Imagine the sight of a poor beggar boy and his mother, him dragging his feet slowly behind hers after a long, hard day. They pass by a storefront and his eyes light-up suddenly as he sees counters beautifully decorated with frosted cupcakes, chocolate cakes adorned with chocolate rose petals, and an assortment of fresh pies and warm cookies. The boy’s mouth literally drops open as he imagines putting a bite into his mouth, to taste and enjoy it. A slight tug awakes him from his walking dream, as his mother urges the boy on. He wishes to say how much he would like to try even one bite of the smallest cookie in the store. Oh, how his stomach aches for food, how his mouth craves to taste something deliciously rich and sweet! He wishes, but he knows better than to ask, so he lowers his head and follows after his mother, looking at her blackened, dirty feet as they return to a shelter by an alleys’ trash bin. As he walks away he catches one last glimpse of a piece of strawberry pie, topped with snowy frosting and with a single strawberry perched atop. A tear falls from the young boy’s face as he looks away, knowing that what his heart wants he cannot have.
Heaven is our storefront, the continuous dream we all carry deep inside, our vision of a better world, a better life, a better tomorrow. When we describe heaven from our souls perspective, it is an unquenchable, pulsating, and desperate longing to be unconditionally loved and eternally happy. Yet everywhere we look love is cheap, unfaithful, and superficial; happiness is earnestly chased after – slow to form, yet so quick to vaporize. Why are we so optimistic when there is so much death, violence, hate, and corruption? Why do we strive so hard to have things be stronger, better, faster, and more perfect? Why do we desire what this world cannot offer?
This leads to a crucial question: why do all human souls strive so hard to find more glimpses of the shadow of this elusive heaven? Has our soul lied to us, deceived us, having us as a dog endlessly pursuing its’ tail? Or perhaps we strive so hard because such a place does indeed exist? In fact, heaven must exist, for as CS Lewis said, “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”
The truth is clear then: our soul longs for something that must exist, but nowhere have we ever found it. We see only glimpses of it, like a hunter chasing a deer deep in the woods – he hears a sound, yet turns to see nothing; he spots a tail disappearing behind a tree trunk, later to see an antler sticking up out of the tall grass. Even if we ever were to find our dream world, our haven, our perfect home – why should we be allowed to enter it? After all, is not man the poison of the world and not its healer? Would we not destroy our dream before we could ever taste it? It’s as if that boy were to finally be given a piece of pie in his hands, only to drop it straight into deep, disgusting mud. So our dilemma continues on.
Meditating on this powerful dichotomy it becomes apparent just how crucial it is to understanding the central message of the Word of God – the redemption of all things through Christ. Paul describes this in Ephesians 2:
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (vv. 1-7, ESV)
“But God” might be one of the single most exciting two words in the entire Bible. After showing us how sinful, wretched, and hopelessly we are, Paul turns and tells us that there is one, yet only one hope. God turned our greatest desire into a true and real hope. Christ’s cross stands between our great dichotomy, making our greatest dream a reality, making all God’s children beneficiaries of this immeasurable love.