When I was a teenager, Belinda Carlisle sang a catchy little tune called “Heaven is a place on Earth.” Despite my love for almost ALL 80s pop hits, I couldn’t listen to this song. I love the tune, but I was raised strictly Baptist, and I was pretty sure the lyrics were sacrilegious. If we couldn’t play cards in the church, listening to this song would require a lot of forgiveness. Contrary to what Belinda thinks, I do know Heaven isn’t a place on earth, but I don’t know much about Heaven at all.
Even though I’ve been a Christian for most of my life, I am still a baby in Christ. I am battling a lot of my legalistic teachings from my childhood and trying to learn about God and how he feels about me. Last week, I spent a lot of time debating this passage, which is one of my favorites:
Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
I can’t help but read this verse and wonder how it applies to people in dire circumstances? I believe God does carry us through the tough times, but how can my sister-in-law’s cancer be a light burden? Or what about my friend Chrissy, whose husband was killed in Afghanistan? Surely her burden of raising four small children on her own isn’t light?
To thicken the plot, my week began with startling news. On Sunday, our new pastor said that we would have to work in heaven! Can you believe that? Since I have never heard of this before, I had to run this past my fact checker, Matt. Matt is my good friend Carrie’s husband and is studying for his masters in Divinity. I knew he could either confirm or deny this shocking idea - not that his answer would change my mind. I still, of course, want to go to heaven, and I have always wondered what on earth we would do to pass eternity. Matt confirmed that yes; we would probably be working in heaven. He gave me a great answer, which is in part:
Later in the week, I was talking with my good friend Jody who is also very knowledgeable in the ways of God. I was wondering out loud about the irony of this passage in Matthew, and she gave me the answer I was looking for. The word yoke here, when translated from either Greek or Hebrew (she told me, but I forgot which one) means a double-sided yoke used to pull a team of oxen. Since I am not Greek, Hebrew, or an Oxen farmer, it is easy to see why I did not know this. Jesus uses this illustration to say that he will be pulling on the other side of the yoke with us. Holy Chicken Cacciatore! The girl is so bright!
As I am trying to sort this out and reconcile the idea of extreme suffering with a light burden, I begin to remember that being a Christian does not entitle me to a Christian Protection Program. For some reason, my mind keeps defaulting to a rule somewhere in my brain and nowhere in the Bible that says being a Christian is easy and comfortable. God never suggests this, and the Bible is filled with examples of the contrary. Jesus’ life was filled with persecution and suffering. The apostle Paul wrote Philippians, one of my favorite books, from a jail cell! Matthew 5:45 explains, “…He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Earlier in the very same chapter, Jesus teaches that Christians will be persecuted and rewarded eternally for their hardship.
Finally, this morning, I was able to make sense of all of my ramblings. I need to have a stronger vision of heaven. To achieve a goal, you have to know what you’re reaching towards. The problem isn’t with God or his teachings; it is with my limited understanding and short-sightedness. I loved Fawnda’s blog yesterday because it brought back memories of those early days with Alex. Having a child is the best TANGIBLE gift from God I have received so far in life. I love Alex so much, that I cannot imagine a better gift, but I do have a better gift – ETERNAL LIFE! When I wanted to get pregnant, I was acutely aware of the fact that God’s eternal life for me was unearned, undeserved and un-top-able. Philippians 3:14 states, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:20 goes on to say, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Somewhere along the way, I started thinking too earthly and not enough eternally.
So, Motley Moms, what do you think Heaven will be like?