Recently, I wrote about how I've resolved a crisis of faith. Today, I want to write about one I'm still in the middle of.
In short, I don't know that I believe in Heaven. At least not the way we talk about it in Church.
This crisis of faith started young. I felt the conflict early on that while people preached that you should become a Christian to get to Heaven, being a Christian for the goal of getting to Heaven didn't seem like a Christian goal. By the teachings of Jesus, I felt that good people only focused on bettering others. That even improvements upon themselves were a means toward improving the situations of others. And if people followed those goals completely, they wouldn't for a second think about the Heavenly payment they would get in return.
To a point, I felt like to talk about Heaven was to distance yourself from it.
For years, this was the lens through which I experienced the teachings of the Church. At times, I even ignored scripture that discussed the rewards of doing good. I pushed them out thinking "if I'm really going to do good, I won't care about that! I can find other inspiration to do good."
Later in life, some writing from C.S. Lewis (and the expansion on his ideas by a friend) changed my perspective a bit. I found that C.S. Lewis was adamant in the way he explains Heaven. He clearly explains that Heaven is a place of perfect community with God, while Hell is a place of perfect absence from God. He postulates further that only people who desire community with God desire Heaven.
Using this as a jumping-off point, C.S. Lewis writes entire chapters, even entire books, about his thoughts on Heaven. Some of these thoughts allayed my earlier concerns, since apparently only good people desire Heaven in the first place. I started to think that maybe being a good person was determined more by which rewards you desire, than the desire of a reward itself. Maybe it was OK to seek Heaven as a goal, because by seeking it in the first place, you're demonstrating a desire to be near God.
But this new-found perspective on Heaven and Hell led to more questions. In The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis describes (through fiction) that Heaven and Earth may not be so separate. He uses an old book, The Great Marriage, as the basis for his idea. The Great Marriage speculated that Earth was a combining (or marriage) of Heaven and Hell. That the 2 spiritual realms, one with God and one without, came together in one place, where anyone can experience life with God and life without God. In the Great Divorce, Lewis tells a story about the separation (or divorce) of the two realms. He tells the story of a man who discovers the ever-separating realms and the immense difference between the two. Yet, in light of the differences, the worlds still seem so close. In the final moments of the book, the realms separate themselves totally.
While this book details a separation of Heaven and Hell, I saw more clearly than ever the marriage of the two. I started to see how people can experience "Heaven on Earth" in the moments when they are closest to God. I found people that experience peace and joy in the midst of struggle because of their close community with God. I began to follow the path of people traveling endlessly between the Earthly Heaven and Hell day after day, all the while trying to find the path to the Earthly Heaven in my own life.
This brings me to today. There's one piece of the puzzle I know I struggle with today: Eternity.
I've learned over the years that God's timing is not my timing. That God's time is even experienced differently than my time. Whether it's the years it's taken Katie and I to start a family or the returning of Jesus, I'm left with nothing but questions. I'm left wondering if God's meaning of eternity is what I expect it to mean. I wonder if the "second coming" is a single, worldwide event or something each of us experiences individually. I even wonder if the eternity in Heaven is promised to us is an afterlife, or if it somehow manifests itself into our Earthly lives.
I guess I could settle to say that I don't know what Heaven is or how I will experience it. And maybe that's healthy, since un-defining my expectations takes away the box I always try to fit God into. But one thing I know for sure is that I will never stop learning about God and what He has in store for me. Maybe He can teach me a little more about Heaven in the coming weeks.
Always moving forward,