I’ve been doing a lot of “Emma Approved” organizing lately.
I’m kind of a pack rat, which means that I have boxes and folders and drawers full of basically every card and note and coloring page I’ve ever been given. As I tried to sort through them, cruelly throwing away everything with no identification on it (I’ve been forced to accept that you can’t feel sentimental about something if you don’t remember where it came from), I was struck by how many of them were from people who have died.
A teacher, a friend from my short-lived ballet career, a girl I had known since I was five, my Granma Ellen, my Grandpa Lee, my sweet Aunt Fame…
Even more of them were from people I’ll probably never see again, kids I worked with as a teachers’ aide, parents of ballet toddlers, elementary school teachers, classmates…
And I sorted through them all, and I thought about heaven.
Most days it feels like all I have to hope for is heaven. I have incurable cancer, persistent depression, zero ambition, and few dreams (All roads are now bent and all that, so I’ve given up on the whole visiting Valinor thing). I don’t really have hope that I’ll get better or I’ll find some great job that fulfills me professionally or I’ll have the giant family that I always thought I would. Now, I’m not saying my whole life is devoid of anything happy or good. I have an amazing family and wonderful friends and God has shown me His steadfast love and mercy beyond anything that I could imagine.
But I’m very aware of the brokenness of creation and the way that sin is intertwined with pretty much everything here on earth. One of the ways that brokenness is manifested in my own life is in illness. There are a lot of really obvious things in my life that aren’t going to be redeemed until heaven. And I’m tired of sickness and sinfulness and separation.
It hasn’t even been a year since my grandfather died. I miss him more than I can say. My great-grandma died when I was thirteen, and it’s only gotten harder as time has passed. None of this “time heals all wounds” stuff for me, apparently.
People that I love have died of illness and violence and old age and accidents. People that I love have lost people that they love, and people move away and lose touch and settle at the four corners of the earth.
And I can only guess that it must be like that, but ever so much more so, for God. We wandered away and rejected Him and chose death and sin instead of the walk in the cool of the day. That as much as I want to be reunited with the people that I love, living and dead, all around the world, God longs for us all even more than that. That He’s been waiting so much longer than I can even comprehend.
Thinking about heaven is the good kind of overwhelming. When I think about knowing as I am known. When I think about seeing my grandparents and my aunt again. When I think about everyone—people I know and love now, and people I’ve never met—worshiping God together. When I think about having a new body.
Let me just quote Marilynne Robinson here, because she’s far more eloquent than I:
“He will wipe the tears from all faces.’ It takes nothing from the loveliness of the verse to say that is exactly what will be required.”
I can’t imagine any of that, especially the idea of a new body. I don’t even remember what being healthy feels like. But I believe it. I hope for it, even when it feels far away.
We have this mighty promise and this glorious hope through Christ. This isn’t our home or our future. Our future is one of reconciliation, redemption, and reunion. One day we’ll be gathered together before the throne of God, with no more goodbyes, no tears, no death.
That’s a hope worth living for.
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” –Revelation 21:4