I genuinely enjoyed my kids today. They were in good moods, funny, and for the most part they were compliant with our requests. We played together, danced together, and watched a movie together. My daughter called herself by her first name today and my son said that his beard doesn’t have any hair on it (he calls his chin his beard, because that’s where mine is). I think about a day like today, when I don’t want to be somewhere else, when all seems to be (mostly) right in the world, and wonder why anyone would want to leave all of the goodness that I experienced today.
I mean that in so many ways. I don’t know how someone chooses some other relationship, some other pursuit, or life in some other realm. Its that last one that I find particularly harder to understand, and even more difficult to write/talk about. The reason its difficult is that I feel quite alone in the way I think about “eternity” as a follower of Jesus.
Eternity in heaven doesn’t excite me.
I don’t “long for heaven”. I don’t feel like a “stranger” or “alien” in this world. I don’t “long” for the second coming of Jesus. That’s kind of hard to admit. How could I, one who claims to love Jesus, not be waiting in eager anticipation for the return of Jesus?
Today, I felt myself kind of cringe when it was proposed by my guy Blane, who was speaking at church, that everybody spends eternity somewhere. That redemption isn’t complete until you get to heaven. That our true hope is in heaven after we die. That’s not a direct quote, and I know Blane pretty well so I know he meant it when he said that we are called to make a better life now, too. I don’t primarily identify myself as one who is going to be in heaven for all of eternity. To be honest, I absolutely never think about heaven after I die. I couldn’t care less about that, actually. And that fact continues to paint my theology, which I’m not afraid to admit.
This is not to say that I don’t believe in an afterlife. I have a whole host of thoughts on the afterlife that I might never get into in this public of a forum. Belief in an afterlife, however, does not have any bearing on whether anything about that afterlife compels me to do or be any different now.
The fact of heaven after death does not give me more hope for life now. The hope of heaven is a hope of relief from the burdens of this life. I don’t feel burdened, so I don’t feel the need for those burdens to be lifted someday. I don’t perceive my current job status or lack of amazing income as a suffering that I need relief from. I’m not waiting for death or the return of Jesus to solve everything for me. I know that whatever happens in eternity is secured and sealed for me by the Spirit of God that lives in me, but I don’t dwell on that.
I have plenty of friends who do long for an end to the way things are today. Who do long for heaven or Jesus to come quickly. Who pray for Jesus to come in power to rescue us from the suffering or evil or whatever it is they are experiencing. I don’t think they are crazy. I don’t think they are wrong. I don’t think they are praying wrong.
But, sometimes I think this longing can cripple the church, or has crippled the church. Jesus gave us the very Spirit of God, with the same power to change this world as he had in his time. Jesus told his disciples that they would do even greater things than him by his power. He taught them to pray that God’s Kingdom would come on earth, and told them over and over that it had come in power through him. That this kingdom is at hand. That, in some mysterious way, the 2 billion people who claim to follow Jesus that are on earth today have the same power that Jesus had in himself, alone, in his day. Can you imagine what this world would look like if 2 billion people with the power of Jesus living inside of them allowed that power to live through them? 2 billion Jesus’ are better than 1 Jesus (at least according to Jesus).
Is it possible that we are so crippled that all we have left is hope that when “its all been said and done” things will get better? Is it possible that we are waiting for something to happen in the future that is already present (albeit dormant) with and in us?
There will be a day when everything is set to right. When there is no longer any suffering or pain. When people are living in harmony with God, each other, and creation. I long for that day, and on good days like today, I feel like that day is closer than some time in the distant future after I die. And I want to live each day as if the kingdom, that is already/not yet, is somewhat up to me submitting to the way of Jesus as much as it is something I am watching, waiting, and praying for.