For some reason the other day, I thought about a television show I was watching a few years ago while channel surfing. The show featured an interview with actress Natalie Portman. At one point during the interview she pretty much out of the blue stated that she did not believe in a literal heaven and said that it was a crutch for people. I don’t remember the context of what caused her to say that, but I thought it sad that she felt that way. Her statement did get me thinking about what I thought about heaven, however.
Now, I believe in heaven, and I expect to be there someday. What surprised me, though, is that while I believe in a literal heaven, I don’t think about it that much. It certainly isn’t a crutch for me. It’s just one of the many facts of my faith that I take for granted. J said he was going to prepare a place for us, yet I haven’t thought much about it other than to hope it has Hills Bros French Vanilla coffee which, by the way, is no longer available here on Earth.
My favorite quote from my favorite author, CS Lewis, goes something like this, “aim at heaven and you get Earth thrown in. Aim at Earth and you get neither.” I think I’m writing this more for myself than for others. It doesn’t matter to me what heaven will look like when I get there. I’ve been aiming too low. J said the Kingdom of Heaven was near which, in turn means “abundant life” should be as well. I think I just understood a little of what was said somewhere in the New Testament that “the violent take [the Kingdom of Heaven] by force.”
I hope I’m not jumping around too much here. There are moments of joy that come out of nowhere, which sustain me in those more common moments when I feel opposed in life and by circumstances in life. Why can’t I just enjoy something/ anything that is not tainted in some way? Abundant life is constantly under assault, and let’s face it, if we’re honest, it feels like a war a lot of the time. The harder I reach out for joy, the more it feels like something is trying to keep me from it. If there is no heaven then why is it being opposed so strongly? And abundant life, why don’t I fight harder for it? Especially when those unexplained moments of joy seem to be telling me, “this should be the norm not the exception.”
I’ve been avoiding this one. It feels too big. How can I expound on subjects like “the Kingdom of Heaven” when the more I read about it and study Christ’s descriptions (or analogies, see the parables in the Gospel of Matthew in particular), the more complex I find it to be. The Kingdom of Heaven is at the very least an immense, powerful, fearful, and desirable place that deserves my attention, and maybe even preoccupation.
In this blog, however, the consideration of the very real fact of a heaven I hadn’t (haven’t) thought enough about, gave way to a more immediate desire of mine, something
Christ refers to as abundant life. I admit, I’ve been avoiding this one, too. It feels too big to tackle in an afternoon at a coffeehouse, perhaps because it is, and also there’s this nagging feeling that I can’t write about abundant life with any degree of certainty, let alone expertise, if I’m not experiencing it at the moment.
Fortunately for me, I’m reminded this quite unusually rainy July afternoon, that I don’t have to figure it out today. Maybe there is nothing to figure out at all. Abundant life isn’t a destination, but it is a part of the journey. At the least, it’s not a place I can realistically expect to land and never depart from or a country from which I can never be expelled. It isn’t a state of mind, either. I can’t close my eyes and pretend that I have it or kid myself into believing it will never leave the next time I’m blessed to have the experience.
I don’t need to remind myself of this today, especially since I’m feeling a little better about things than I was yesterday. I’m not foolish enough to confuse this current feeling of peace, if not joy, with the attainment of that elusive abundant life. This joy is here today to remind me that there is something that while it feels unattainable, is still worth fighting for everyday.
God does give me, through the Holy Spirit, what I call those moments of “joy out of nowhere” that help me through the day to day trials of an often mundane existence. I know how to react to these moments, as gifts for which to be both grateful and thankful.