...because we all have our motley moments!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Finding Heaven

Disclaimer: This week, I am sharing a winding train of thought that has hijacked my mind. I promise, I am not trying to preach to anyone, but I am just sharing some of the things I have been trying to wrap my mind around.

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:

"If you look at the Garden of Eden, Adam had work prior to the fall – to tend that which God gave him dominion over. The fall turned this work into toil and added thorns and thistles. I think of it as an environment where everyone wants you to succeed, and wants to help however they can. There was a metaphor I heard for humility that might fit what work would be like in heaven. The metaphor had to do with creating the greatest cathedral the world has ever known, and then being just as pleased when someone else creates one that surpasses it. Think about it this way – when God created the heavens and the earth, he said that it was good. In fact He is the master builder, and so there isn’t anything conceivable that would be better. If that was the case when he made the world to begin with, then probably heaven won’t be totally different? Of course this is an area that you probably shouldn’t hold to strong of a view either way; it’s just up for wondrous speculation."

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?


fawnda said...

I read a book called the Scared Romance and at the end it talked about Heaven.

Before that book I had always thought that we would just be standing around in white robes singing praises, it was fine (better than burning in a pit of fire!) but maybe a bit boring!

The book also suggested that we would be “working” in Heaven, in a way that works for everyone. Doing what you love, using your talents, being successful, helping everyone else and bringing glory to God. I thought “Great! That sounds like something I would want to do!”

Recently I heard a sermon on the Matthew passage. It talked about the Yoke and how it was a “2 person” yoke with Christ and how when you walk with Christ in His yoke you are learning from Him.

Great reminders today Pam!

Maria said...

There is actually a book entitled Heaven by Randy Alcorn. He is one of my favorite authors. I haven't read it yet, but since it has so many pages in it, he must have a lot to say about heaven!

I think that heaven will be a place where we will finally meet Jesus and be able to talk with Him face to face. Can you imagine? I am very comforted by that and (dare I say) am excited about leaving this earth to get to heaven.

This is how I explain dying to my children. I tell them that Jesus is waiting for us and He is getting things ready for when it is time for us to meet Him. When they ask me when that's going to be, I tell them that it's a surprise!

Liz said...

Wow, Pam, this was deep. I've been thinking about it all day. I don't have much to say because I'm kind of having my own faith crisis right now. I'm sure, though, that, like you, I'm thinking too earthly and not enough eternally.

Karly said...


Fawnda totally stole my answer. I had never really been that excited about going to Heaven until I read the last chapter of the book, "Sacred Romance" by John Eldredge titled Coming Home. It is worth the price of the book. Although, I think the whole book is awesome.

Thanks for the great post! Great questions!

Lindsay said...

Great post, it really made me think. I dont have much of a response right now mainly because I am so busy. Plus today I have a sick middle child at home. But I wanted to tell you Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.

Pam said...

Thanks everyone! I think I will look at the books Maria, Karly and Fawnda suggested. I hope I was able to explain my crazy thought train a little. Lindsay, I hope your sick little one gets better soon, and Liz, maybe we should just plan our eternity together - like a time share or something. If eternity is anything like Siesta Key, we can only have something to look forward too!