As a a young girl, I had quite the imagination. I imagined far away places full of adventure. I imagined villages in need of a young valiant warrior’s acts of bravery. I imagined buried treasures hidden deep in dangerous jungles for only the most daring to venture into. I imagined feasts fit for kings and ballrooms festooning with festivities. I imagined ferocious beasts and menacing monsters that only the most courageous and cunning could destroy. I imagined worlds where ordinary people could do extraordinary things like fly in the sky and leap from building to building and pick up entire houses with their bare hands. I imagined great and mighty things, wonders so real and yet so impossible they could only come from the heart of a child. I imagined many things, and rarely stopped to question whether or not they were worth wondering about in the first place.
I suppose I was caught up in the romance of life. Something inside me was always whispering that this world offered so much more than met the human eye; that hidden behind everyday moments lie the extraordinary. The extraordinary was what I longed for, what I was in constant search of, what I would daydream in the middle of class about, and escape to when my parents’ fighting would wake me up in the middle of the night, or close my eyes and remind myself of when humanity’s very worst traits made the evening news.
I imagined that one day my life would be extraordinary. It would be filled with adventure and romance and purpose and awe and wonder, and most certainly lots of laughter. I would do great things with great people, I would fight and I would triumph, I would love and be loved, I would make this world a better place and I would savor every moment of it.
But like the rest of us, I woke up to an alarm clock today. I sipped my coffee in a half awakened state. I worked out even though I did not want to but because I have reached an age in which I really do need to. I curled my hair and spotted grays in the process. I ran late for a meeting. I sat at my laptop to discover a very long to-do list and a lot of emails that I would much rather click ‘delete all’ to than actually ‘reply to’. And all if this is just my day before 10am.
What ever happened to slaying dragons and rescuing villages and standing before kings and queens? At what age are the joys of imagining replaced by the demands of adulting? When exactly is it that fairy tales are traded in for to-do lists and “what if’s” are exchanged for “when’s” as in “When will I get a break?” “When will I get a good night’s sleep?” “When will I get caught up?” “When will I get a day off?” At what moment exactly do we trade in our idealism for exhaustion and our hopes of what could be with a survival of what is?
I’m not exactly sure when it happens. I suppose it is different for all of us. But when it does happen, we lose more than our imaginations. We are in dire danger of losing our joy.
Someone recently told me that following Jesus in this life is simply preparing us for an eternity with Him. God’s perfect will be done on earth is a shadow of Heaven, of this mysterious and perfect place we will one day call home. If that is true, then what exactly are we preparing for? If we are following Jesus in this life weighed down worry and subjugated to stress and frustrated at anything and everything and physically worn down by our own self-imposed need to be busy at all times, what does that say about the Heaven we believe we are prepping for?
Heaven is many things that eye has never seen and ear have never heard, but one thing is certain, we could stretch our imaginations to its absolute limits and still come up short. Just read the book of Revelation, and well, I rest my case. Heaven is better than our very best theories of perfection. Every adventure and wonder and romance and celebration imagined by every single human that ever was and will ever be could still not come close to the actuality of Heaven. Quite frankly, our imagination on its best day will never do eternity justice.
If Heaven is so magnificent a place that words can never fully articulate even the simplest of its splendors, then are we properly preparing here on earth? When we get to heaven will we have been appropriately trained in the art of love and laughter and adventure and spontaneity and tenderness and bravery and hope and joy? Will we have laughed enough in this life to not be shocked by the joy that will be in Heaven? Have we been still in the presence of God in our daily pursuits to feel at home in His presence forever? Have we loved with every bit of our hearts those around us to be ready to live in a world where Love will fully reign? Have we fought to make this world a better place and in doing so tasted a preview of the perfect place that is to come?
I now realize that as a girl with an imagination unrestrained by stress and heartbreak and worry and fear and guilt and shame and a million other little cuts that can bleed each of us out with enough time, that even then I was simply longing for Heaven. I was yearning for a place where Love had the final say and Justice and Goodness reigned. With every “what if?” I was giving voice to the whispers of eternity.
And now, I refuse to let the longing for Heaven cease. I’m not even sure I could if I tried. I could medicate it with addictions and dysfunctions. I could drown it out it with busyness and distractions. I could run from it with pursuits of power, popularity and prestige. But even then, eternity would remain in my heart.
In a world where it is all to easy to show up while still tuning out, I don’t want to ignore the longing. Something tells me you don’t either. Heaven is our home; so may we live like it here on earth. By God’s grace and Jesus’ leading, we will make a little bit of heaven right here on earth. We will bring joy where there is gloom. We will bring laughter where there is depression. We will bring generosity where there is greed. We will bring acceptance where there is shame. We will bring comfort where there is sadness. We will bring bravery where there is timidity. We will bring kindness where there is cruelty.
We will keep dreaming of a better world, and we will keep fighting to make it one. We will keep searching for adventure in the everyday, romance in the small moments, awe and wonder in the routine. We will wake up each morning, resolved not just to complete emails or show up for meetings or add to our snapchat stories or pay the bills or clean the house… No, we will resolve to take heaven with us wherever we go.
And may we never stop asking “what if?” because that subtle whisper of Heaven is a battle cry of hope here on this earth.