Sightings of Home

Photo by Davide Cantelli on Unsplash

“I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now.”

C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle

In The Last Battle, Jewel the unicorn finds that world’s version of heaven baffling yet familiar. Regardless of the confusing feelings, he knows it’s home, and he must discover more and more of it.

I think we, too, will be surprised by heaven. Most of all, I think we’ll be surprised that we will not “go to heaven” in the end. The Bible never uses that phrase—not once in 66 books. Instead, both Isaiah and Revelation describe the union of heaven and earth, a new creation where humans will find ultimate joy and God will forever be present. John describes kind of an Eden 2.0—people engaged in their best employment in a perfect new world that restores heaven and earth to their rightful lack of division. 

With respect to the hymn writer, we will not “fly away.”

Even the imagery echoes Eden.

“Then the angel showed me a river with the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. It flowed down the center of the main street. On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, with a fresh crop each month. The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations.”

Rev. 22:1-2, NLT
Photo by Mario Álvarez on Unsplash

The abundant flowing water and conspicuously important trees remind us of that place where humans were first offered a tree of life. As we read these words in a time of unrest that hasn’t happened in our generations, don’t these promises sound like a place we’ve been “looking for all {our} lives”? 

Do the nations frighten you right now? My own nation scares the life out of me, without even mentioning those at war in other parts of the world. A pandemic has retrained our social instincts to make us fear and avoid one another, destroying mental health and the community necessary for human flourishing. Political division has divided family. People look for exits when they do go out, spooked at the specter of gun violence anywhere and everywhere. Whole segments of the population fear the loss of basic human rights—rights people of color maintain they have never had and see slipping farther away. All the while, we’re bracing for weather extremes as we do little to stop the warming of our world. Then, there’s actual war, waged against innocent underdogs.

All in all, it seems the nations need some of those leaves from the tree of life, stat. The patient is in critical condition. 

So are a lot of us. I know I yearn for the day I no longer hurt 24/7. One day, I’ll be swing dancing and clambering up waterfalls again, a day when I won’t need healing trees because a resurrection body will never know pain. 

The promise is so much greater than flying away to some cloudy space with random harps. The Lord has planned a merging of God’s space and ours, perfecting ours beyond our current imagination and inviting us to enjoy it forever as perfected humans. 

Photo by Elijah Hiett on Unsplash

So what about now? Jesus also promised that the kingdom of God was here, now. In a way, he had broken through and begun the unification. When Jesus commissioned his followers, he told them they would do even greater thing than he had done, to the ends of the earth (John 14:12, Matt. 28:19). Jesus meant that every time one of his people did something as he would, we were planting little pockets of the kingdom in this world. 

Every time we offer kindness, healing, restoration, justice, comfort, mercy, forgiveness, generosity, hope—that’s all seeds of the kingdom planted. They’re all small places where heaven meets earth. For people who are hopeless or fearful now, these liminal spaces where they can see and feel the presence of God mean more than all the words we can spill. 

If we, like Jewel, are longing for our real home, working to bring the kingdom to our surroundings is a good way to at least set down some carpets and wash the windows of where we are now. We’ll never create heaven—humans can never eradicate evil because it’s part of us. We can, though, offer sightings of home to those who need it. 

This article first appeared here at The Glorious Table.

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