“What is heaven?” the little girl asked, big blue eyes staring at the Sunday school teacher with curious wonder.
“It is paradise.” The teacher answered.
The little girl pondered her answer while twirling the lace on her shoe. She looked up again with the same curious look, “What is paradise?”
“It is a place where everyone is happy and has everything they ever wanted.” The teacher seemed pleased with her answer as a smile started to spread across the little girl’s face.
The girl’s eyes began to dance as she imagined the dolls, doll houses, and endless doll playthings. “What a wonderful God we have!” thought the little girl. She couldn’t wait to get to heaven.
As I grew older, I learned that heaven is where God is, and when we get there, we will spend eternity worshipping Him. The little girl in me couldn’t help but be disappointed that there would be no time for dolls. I couldn’t quite wrap my brain around the idea that just worshipping God would be paradise. I loved God. I wanted to meet God. I wanted to live forever in heaven. But really, spending forever worshipping Him? Was that my destiny? Was that paradise?
In the Baptist Church where I was raised, there was a lot of preachin’ about heaven and hell. My Daddy likes to call them “fire-and-brimstone” sermons. At the end of these sermons, we were pretty much scared to death of hell or anything we could do to earn a place there. Those of us who were saved were inspired to evangelize to those who had not yet committed their lives to Christ and were in danger of spending eternity in hell. If you were not saved, then after listening to these sermons, you were inspired to sprint to the altar in order to avoid a “fire-and-brimstone” destiny. So, growing up, I had a fear of hell and thus desired heaven as a way to avoid it. I knew that heaven would be great, but I just didn’t have any idea what it would be like. Worshipping God forever wasn’t a concept I was mature enough to grasp.
But now that I’m older, and somewhat more mature, the concept of heaven seems quite different to me. It has helped because I have walked a little farther along in my journey with the Lord. I’ve had experiences with Him I can’t quite explain. I have had moments with Him I don’t quite understand. But they have all been wrapped up with this overwhelming Divine Love that I am completely unworthy of feeling. With each new step I take, I fall completely head-over-heels in love with Jesus all over again. Now that I have been nourished by the waters of life, I can’t seem to leave the river. I just want to live on the river bank and bathe in the Divine Love that holds me together. I imagine that heaven is where I will experience this divine love with all my senses, completely adore its beautiful source and wholly give myself over to Him forever.
So, now I think I get it. The desire for heaven is the Father’s goal for our lives. He doesn’t want us to desire it because it is better than hell, or because it is paradise. He wants us to desire it because it is where He is. To desire heaven is to desire the presence of God. Our purpose in life is not to get to heaven, but to grow in love for God so that heaven, or being in the presence of God, is the desire of every fiber in our being. He longs for us to grow in His divine love so that we willingly give up our lives to Him just as he gave up His life for us. And when we let go of ourselves and replace the empty space with His love, mercy, and will, we will find ourselves in that place where our hearts beat for Him and our soul’s deepest, overwhelming desire is to bask in the glory of God forever.
And who knows, when I finally get to heaven, maybe Jesus will play dolls with me after all.