Clean sheets, the afterlife and John Lennon

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It’s weird.

Thinking about heaven.

Gates of pearl and blinding streets of gold. Massive lions hanging out with fuzzy little lambs.

The concept is so far beyond my comprehension, I sometimes wonder if it even exists.

That’s when John Lennon’s song Imagine comes to mind. He’s right, you know. It is easy if you try. It’s easy to imagine that heaven isn’t real.

But, Heaven is basically all I have.

It’s my

  • retirement
  • spiritual significance
  • only explanation for the suffering and the unbearable disappointments on earth.

When I was a little kid I sang a hymn about a “land beyond the river, that we call the sweet forever”.  I belted out with the best of them that I was going to “fly away to a land where joys shall never end”.

But, I had no tangible proof that  this place existed.

  • No postcards from anyone who lives there.
  • No travel agent sending me brochures with photo spreads advertising the top attractions.

All I had to hold on to were a couple of Bible verses and a sermon that my Dad preached after he recovered from his second heart attack.

“I was terrified of dying,” Dad confessed, “terrified of finding out that this heaven I preached about was not real.”

While he was in the emergency room, his heart stopped. Suddenly, he found himself looking down from the ceiling as doctors worked on his chest.

Darkness pulled him away from the room. He drifted in nothingness until he saw a light. Soft and warm, it pulled him in to a world of such color and vitality it almost took his breath away.

It’s ttrue, he thought. The story of Christmas. The celebration of Easter.

The cries. The prayers. They had not just dissipated into empty space.

Dad walked toward the light. It was pure and fresh as bed sheets hung out to dry on a summer’s day. Without a doubt, the author of his salvation, the redeemer of his soul was just a few strides away.

Dad stopped. He took a deep breath and willed himself to turn around, to walk away from the light.

His family wasn’t ready. He had to go back.

“I’ve got a heart rate,” cried an intern. Dad opened his eyes.

“We thought we’d lost you,” said the doctor as he checked his vital signs. “You’re a lucky man.”

He was more than lucky. Dad saw what most people on earth will never see: the shape of his faith, the face of his hope, and the promise of his heavenly home.

Dad only lived a few more years. Some of his days were meaningful with connection, others not so pleasant. Medication messed with his ability to cope. He became short tempered. In the last few months, he withdrew from the rest of the family. At the time, I resented the mood swings, the brooding silence.

Now, I realize that he was holding onto this life by sheer willpower. During work, while driving to the heart specialist, Dad focused on one reality.  He was going home.

I still have doubts about Heaven.

Perhaps my doubts stem from a lack of intimacy with eternity. Maybe, it’s because I am so enamored with the here and now.

In the introductory pages of his book “Things Unseen” Mark Buchanan wrote, “Heaven is to be our fixation…our deep secret, like being in love, where just the thought of it carries us through menial chores or imparts to us courage in the face of danger. We fix on it and it fixes us.”

I think I’ve got some repair work to do on my inner compass, adjustments to make concerning my focus.

The next time I hear some old timers sing, “This world is not my home I’m just a passing through,” I’ll pay attention to the words instead of rolling my eyes. This world was never meant to be my little permanent little hidey hole or eternal retirement condo.

Heaven’s my home.