Thinking Ahead

The more people I know in heaven — the more loved ones I send ahead there — the more I think about it, and the more I’m convinced that’s where I belong. There’s a Matt Maher song about heaven that so perfectly combines beauty and longing that I can’t listen to it without weeping. It calls me home. I know the lyrics aren’t scripture — Maher’s vision of heaven may be completely inaccurate — but let's imagine that it’s not. Let’s pretend this is an accurate picture of the afterlife. Humor me as I exposit Maher’s vision of an eternal garden. 

In the cool of the day
You come and meet me
All the blue fades away
The stars are winking

The first line calls us back to Genesis — to a time when people walked with God in the cool of the day. Jesus meets us there and we enjoy beauty and wonder. Creation isn’t ended. We don’t live in a cloud or a matrix. We marvel at the stars and the sunsets and the elephants, even more so now because we see the Creator’s signature more clearly. 

Your love's so strong
I can't recall
What was this thing
They called the fall?

There will be this moment in heaven when we stop and wonder, “What was that thing we used to talk about — something about running to broken cisterns? I don’t even remember now…” Oh my soul, how I long for that kind of forgetfulness!

And You walk with me
You never leave
You're making my heart a garden

Everyone who has left us is not a prelude to another parting. There is no more parting. Jesus will never leave. And he has work to do. He’s forming our hearts. Could we change in heaven? Grow? Experience seasons? What if we don’t instantly know all there is to know? What if our curiosity isn’t instantly sated and our maturity not instantly realized? What if it takes time to ask Peter our questions and listen to Paul’s stories? What if, like a garden, our hearts experience times of growth and blossoming and pruning and fallow? What if Jesus tends our hearts directly in eternity the way we try to let him cultivate us in the inhospitable climate of Earth? 

Oh, why would I hide
Away from Your face
When the light of Your love

We wouldn’t think of hiding, or betraying, or blaming. None of the death of Genesis 3 is possible. In fact, death itself seems a silly notion. 

Your hand in mine
A steady line
Drawn on my heart
And deep in my mind

And as we walk hand-in-hand with our eternal Lover going over the old tales again, we gasp to see the thread of redemption he has woven through our stories — through all stories. We may spend eternity appreciating the literary masterworks of zillions of life stories, each bearing the same steady line of God’s purposes. 

And You walk with me
You never leave
You're making my heart a garden

All the broken are mending
The mournful rejoicing
Seeing through tears
A feast overflowing

Here is where heaven shines — where our deepest hopes and longings culminate. Every broken body, mind and soul finds the wholeness it was meant for. Illness disappears. Derek gets his leg back. Pat's mind is sharp. Fears and wounds are shed like heavy coats on a Spring afternoon. And broken hearts are mended too. My cousin who buried his stillborn daughter in 1999 gets to turn cartwheels with her. My dear friend who just buried his bride is taking her out for a spin in their boat. And all of them sit down to a feast — a party with laughter and wine and deep, catching sighs of fulfillment and a guest of honor that makes them glow with gratitude. Shalom. 

And You walk with me
You never leave
You're making my heart a garden

Yeah, You walk with me
You never leave
You're making our world a garden

Again, I don’t know if Matt Maher has a clearer window to heaven than anyone else, but if this vision of the wedding banquet has even a hint of truth, it makes me ache for the real thing. I have good friends feasting at that table now. I hope they’re saving me a seat.

Ryan SandersComment