Things have been stressful for we Earthlings lately, for many reasons.
It seems a day doesn’t go by when the pressure doesn’t get more intense and the urge to panic greater and greater.
A little while ago, when too much reality was threatening to overwhelm me, I decided to take action.
I grabbed a champagne glass and a bottle of ginger ale, a pretty picnic blanket and a luxury candle, and went outside. I poured the ginger ale, lit the candle, inhaled deeply, and flopped down on my back to look at the sky.
Slowly, the anxiety began to lift . . . and it lifted even more when my twin came out to join me.
As we sat there, watching the light turn to dusk and the clouds to stars, it occurred to me that my perspective was all wrong and that I shouldn’t be looking towards the future with dread—but avid anticipation. I had been mulling over a dark fantasy, instead of embracing a vivid reality.
In that moment, it was as if the Holy Spirit whispered to me that this was what I had to look forward to. This was what would last. The trials we are going through now are a mere blink, a mere blast of fire from the furnace that we all must go through for a short time.
But that was not TRUE reality. It was THESE things that WOULD last: the dazzling sky above me, the soft breeze on my face, the grass between my fingers and toes, the clouds spiraling above like garlands and my best friend sitting next to me. The real pleasures of my favorite scent and being in nature, the real sensations of earth, the real camaraderie that arises from the most desultory talk with the people that know you and love you best.
The Holy Spirit spoke to me that this was a mere reflection, a tiny taste, of the true reality ahead of me: when I finally step into Eternity with Him. Pleasure upon pleasure, peace upon peace, calm upon calm, and time upon time.
Too often, when we say the word “reality” we aren’t thinking of this at all. We are thinking of something grim and hard. Reality for us is often synonymous with something distasteful. “Life is tough—that’s reality.”
When we say “reality” what we often really mean is actually something more like hell—not heaven. And yet we yearn for something better than the reality of sickness, war, and death. We feel a little whisper of this different reality in moments of love or peace or quiet—but it’s hard to find.
We just only get snatches of it in this life. The search can be frustrating.
But again, I felt a perspective check. I know life is a crazy seesaw of emotions and events and we must all do our best to cling to the good and hold on during the bad. But instead of becoming upset about how erratic this seesaw is, shouldn’t we be grateful for it? Isn’t this balance between pure pleasures and horrid disasters a good and fair example to all humanity of the choice before us?
In this life we are caught between Heaven and Hell. Like Earth is suspended in space, so also we are suspended between life and death, between earthly things and heavenly things, between hellish trials and holy gifts.
This wild pendulum swinging between joys and sorrows is yet another example of God’s graciousness to us and an example of how He truly does give everyone a fair shot at Eternity.
We are all given a little bit of Heaven and Hell on earth, so that we can make our choice about where we want to spend eternity. Sadly, some people drag their own hell around with the no matter where they go. They’ve become comfortable in it and, sadly, if faced with Heaven itself, would very much prefer the familiarity of misery. But some look for Heaven all their lives and by practice obedience, kindness, and peace, make a bit of Heaven on Earth by God’s grace as they prepare for the real thing.
A good teacher tells their student want to study before a test. But Psalm 34 tells us to “Seek peace and pursue it!” How many times does the Bible, and Jesus himself, speak to us about peace? It’s not a suggestion, it’s a command. “Seek peace” is the marching orders of every true Christian—because we are moving forward towards a place of eternal peace. In a way, it’s the textbook we must study to pass the entrance exams into Heaven.
When we get to Heaven, it will be ENDLESS peace, without interruption. No clamor, no fuss, no agitation. So isn’t it good that we learn to be quiet and still in our souls here on Earth? It’s good practice for our future home and our true reality.
In that true reality, there will be no sin, no sorrow, no vileness, no grimness, no darkness, no smallness in that heavenly place. How could there be? Those things are the antithesis of God. Heaven is too big to receive anything so small and puckered up, so why should we live in that state of mind here on Earth?
The cleansing blood of Jesus Christ gives us power to live differently, to live peacefully and joyfully and with anticipation. This is reality.
Sadly, we often hold on to the false reality around us with all our might. Like Gollum in Lord of the Rings clinging to the thing that destroys him, we keep clinging to the sin, the anxiety, the anger, the accusations, the lies, and the fear. And, like Gollum, we say “the thing that is killing me is precious to me and I can’t let it go. This is all that is real to me anymore.”
But that’s not true reality.
Reality is the time on the picnic blanket, holding hands with your family, marveling at creation, drinking in every sensation and looking eagerly for the One who made them. It is THESE things that are Heaven on earth. It is THESE things that echo of eternity and whisper to us of the wonderful things that await.
And yet we get so confused about what reality really means. We live in a world where people are obsessed with the “real” world. They insist on vileness in all their forms of entertainment to make it more “relatable.” They are attached to their sin and would rather have their failings then freedom. But what we’re really obsessed with is not “real life” but Hell. Hell is the birth place of all fear, hatred, depression, envy, strife, and every negative thought and feeling that we know.
But, in Heaven, you won’t find a dirty thought or a sad feeling there, no matter how far you look. To gaze upon Christ is to have every feeling, every thought, every sin set right forever.
Since that is my true reality, the real thing that I am looking for, I want to be ready for that day. I want to be ready to take the leap over the border between Here and Home and find that these good things here on Earth were only the beginning.
Because this is reality. This IS Christianity. We laugh in the face of disaster—because disaster will not last for us. We have peace in the storm—because we know the Man who calms storms with a word. We can go on making plans and holding them loosely, because we knew all of our plans were out of our hands anyway. Even when all the soap and hand sanitizer disappears, we can be clean inside, because we are washed by Jesus himself.
Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ and, one day, nothing can separate us from His Presence. This is my reality.
It’s not easy to live in reality, it’s a daily and hourly battle that can only be won by total dependence on God. As the world screams “panic” louder and louder there is no distraction powerful enough in the world to silence the storm except for that One Voice who can calm the seas with a word.
These bits of Heavens on Earth are fleeting and changeable. I don’t know what will happen tomorrow. I don’t even know what will happen an hour or a minute from now. All I do know is that everyone I love will, one day, die. One day, one way or another, I too will be wrenched from Earth. When it will happen or how no one knows. We can’t stay here, because this world is not our home, and there’s only one out of it—death.
But, thank God, there are two routes that can be taken once we board the Death Train. One track shoots straight to eternity of peace and joy in the presence of our Creator. The other track goes down, through the dark, where there is no light, no peace, no joy, no rest, no belonging, only the emptiness and the torment that you might be feeling now—but for all time.
We are all little fairy tale characters with a trail of breadcrumbs in front of us leading through a dark forest towards home. We can sit down in the forest and allow the fear to overwhelm us until the wolves find us and we are destroyed forever, or we can focus on the path and the sustenance that the breadcrumbs bring and keep moving towards our true destination—our true home.
So I am beginning my training now. I am focusing on every moment of goodness, of peace, of joy, of laughter. Because these things have only begun for me. There is so much more ahead.
Everything around me right now is simply a dream world. I keep rolling over and opening my eyes for a few moments to glimpse real life, but then fall asleep again.
But someday I’ll wake up for real.
Someday, it will finally be the first day of school. We’ll get off the bus that takes us from the dull neighborhood of life on earth, and step onto a street of gold. We’ll find ourselves slipping into a glorious, boundless land full of wonderful things are both familiar and entirely new. Then we’ll hear that Voice that is like the ringing of a bell—calling us to the Great Class that has no end, ushering us into the arms of a holy college, where we will play, and grow, and learn, and worship, and be with him, the Great Teacher, for all Eternity.
Someday, we’ll really learn how to laugh, how to thrive, how to be at peace. Until then, we struggle through this earthly preschool and do our best to prepare for the holy house that awaits us. All the joys and laughter and peace we have here are mere imitations—toy versions of the REAL thing. But we make do with our chalk and sidewalks, our clumsy reed pens and tree bark, so that we will be prepared for the Real thing. For now we savor those moments of quiet on the picnic blanket and look forward with anticipation and hope for the eternity of peace to come.