from Stone Crossings: Finding Grace in Hard and Hidden Places
L.L. points out that between life and death there is normally a semicolon and not merely a comma (different editions of Donne's poem, "Death Be Not Proud"). To leave this life is not something which naturally comes easy. Sometimes a lingering, severe illness facilitates a readiness to do so, and for others, old age makes one ready to go. But all that is against nature in God's original creation before the fall, particularly humankind's place in God's purpose in creation.
But in Jesus God has redeemed creation, all things. And in that, death is vanquished in Jesus and swallowed up by life, eternal life. Heaven might be a good name for the intermediate state between our death and the resurrection to come of our bodies. The resurrection and renewal of all things in Jesus is probably a new earth in which heaven and earth are made one- this in Jesus awaits us beyond the pale of death.
Like L.L. tells us, there actually is little that is specific in Scripture as precisely what this "heaven" will be like. It promises to be wonderful to the point that if it was opened up for us, like it was for Paul, maybe we'd be clamoring for it in a way that is unhealthy. While we are strangers and pilgrims, or sojourners on earth, yet earth beings we are, and in a sense we're at home here. But death is the ultimate reminder that this life with all its joys and beauty is both fleeting and has its limitations. It points to something more, a fulfillment yet to come.
All these thoughts and many more come from reading and reflecting on this wonderful chapter by L.L. on heaven. It is rich and makes me long to live better on earth, with good works following me there, as she picturesquely reminds us, as well as to long more for a better country, that is a heavenly one, in which God has prepared for us a city.
This is a subject we all have to face, healthy or not. Death is the great leveler, but beyond it, in Jesus awaits a life which makes the life we hold on to now with all our might "for dear life", utterly pale in comparison (see C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce).
In keeping with what L.L. has told me, I must share something of myself in this post. For me the thought of heaven makes me look, or want to look differently at everything here in this present life. It helps me know that some things are worth waiting for, letting all else go to which I so tenaciously and can idolatrously cling to in this life. I have to keep fighting against the tyranny of the urgent, or the now- even in terms of what I want. To hold on to what is eternal I must let go or hold loosely that which is not. This doesn't seem to come easier for me as I get older (now post-50), and I'm amazed at how strongly some older people seem to hold on to this life as they approach the inevitable. For them, perhaps, all they're looking at is in this life. I might do well to ask myself sometimes if I'm doing the same. Do I really think that "heaven" is the climax of all here, and the glimpse of that which we have now, and even this good life here and now, is paltry in comparison? Seems like God wants us to have a balance, being fully present and engaged in this life, but with an eye of faith towards the life to come- even as a factor for us in Jesus, now.
As in all the chapters, this is wonderful and a mini-book in itself. One does well to read, then reread, and perhaps read again each chapter as the rich truth begins to sink in and take hold of one's mind and heart. And don't forget the stimulating "discussion questions" in the back.
What would you like to share on this, here?
1. Stepping Stones - conversion
2. Christmas Coal - shame
3. Tossed Treasures - messiness
4. Heron Road - suffering
5. Sword in the Stone - resistance
6. Howe's Cave - baptism
7. Palisade Cliffs - doubt
8. Holding Pfaltzgraff - inclusion
9. Indiana Jones - fear
10. Old Stone Church - love
11. Goldworthy's Wall - sacrifice
12. Clefts of the Rock - responsibility
13. Olive Press - gratitude
14. Forest Star - humility
15. Seedstone - healing
16. Sugar Face - forgiveness
17. Lava Rock - witness
18. Climbing - justice
Next week: The final chapter: Blood from a Stone - completion