Dedication: This is for my friend Tim Robertson who will undergo a second surgery Oct. 2 to remove the brain tumor that has regrown. Tim, hang in there and don’t you dare beat me Home…that would beak my heart. I’m praying for you and your family
As my ALS advances, I’ve been thinking a lot about Home; about when I am finished and can finally kick back and rest like it promises in Hebrews 4. Sometimes I even begin to feel like I did in school when end of the year finals came up. There were a lot of late nights, hard work and stress ahead, but once it was all done, I was free. No more pressure! I could sleep in the following morning! I could grab my fly rod and go fishing if I wanted! That’s a wonderful feeling; one day this will be over and I can get to living.
But what will Heaven be like? We all have our little theories about that. A friend of mine, who is suffering from an aggressive brain tumor, thinks it will be where he will be able to play guitar like Eric Clapton. For many people I’m sure images of pristine Caribbean beaches come to mind. I won’t argue with that, but I’m a Great Northwest (USA) boy at heart. The places I can consistently feel the timeless quality of eternity are in the few remaining fragments of the old Northwest; the trackless old growth forest where the shafts of sunlight on a summer’s day reveals the persistent sprinkle of hemlock needles as tiny sparks of gold, the air heavy with the ubiquitous scent of warm red cedar; or the rare isolated beach abounding with life, fish and fowl, mollusk and mammal, the wavelets lapping the gravel just as they have since the third day of creation.
My first thought is that Heaven will always be summer. Summer is the season of life at its pinnacle, vigorously fulfilling it’s promise with the throttle wide open. My absolute favorite tomato is the old heirloom Mister Stripey, a large yellow tomato shot thru with pink and peach, juicy, sweet, without a drop of acid. It makes unbelievable BLT’s and BCT’s (bacon, cheddar cheese and tomato). If it will always be summer at Home, then there will always be Mister Stripey tomatoes getting ripe in the tomato patch, warm and fragrant. Not to mention the tartly sweet wild blackberries just waiting to be part of a pie, or loads of ripe huckleberries, God’s most amazing berry, available when you wanted, no more disappointment of getting there too soon, too late, or suffering from a poor growing season. There wouldn’t be the need for the mad dash to put up firewood for the winter, or any other preparation for long dark months of cold and wet. Summer’s low clamming tides would roll back on a consistent basis, offering on-going opportunities for steamer clams to go with blackberry and huckleberry pies. I’ve got a feeding tube now, all right? Of course I’m obsessing about food! But then again, obtaining and preparing food has been the primary activity of human existence; it is the core of our desire for freedom from want, and freedom from want is one of God’s major promises for his people. Those of us who have grown up with super markets have lost touch with that.
But then again, God designed his creation to be diverse, constantly in motion. Each season has its own value. Summer is the season of life, but fall is the season of promise fulfilled. It’s the time to literally reap the rewards of summer’s energy, the grains, the fruit, the vegetables, and the young livestock. Fall is also when the world feels like it slows down, transitions from vibrancy to stillness, a comfortable change between summers heat and winter’s cold. Winter can be sublimely beautiful, still, delicate and bright. The world often appears to be slumbering, resting up, renewing its energy, preparing. Then comes spring. The world awakens, sometimes grumbling and slow, but inexorable in its drive to come back to life. Even cold, wet, and windy springs bring hope and joy with color and fragrance.
The changing seasons reflect God’s creative, dynamic nature, so maybe a monolithic summer season isn’t a reasonable expectation. But I do have a difficult time imagining long winters as part of heaven. In human experience winter has been a season of hunger, sickness and death, a threat to existence, a time of misery, despair, and depression. I have a hard time imagining winter at Home.
The number one greatest thing about Home will be timelessness. If I’m going to collect a few clams on the beach, it won’t matter if I get diverted by a tide pool; I’ll be able to give over to curiosity and fascination; watching the tiny sculpins dart around, be immersed in observing feathery barnacle tentacles sifting for food, see the glacier like travels of a starfish across the rock – without the guilty feeling that I’m wasting time. No nagging thoughts of everything that still needs to be seen and done, no lurking notion that by saying “yes” to the tide pool I’ve said “no” to other things I would enjoy just as much, maybe more.
Timelessness will mean that Tim, my friend with brain cancer, will have all the time he needs to study and practice the guitar until he can play like Clapton. Even if it takes forever. Which I suspect in his case it will (sorry Tim!). But no one will ever say, “You’re wasting your time!” I won’t ever hear those words either when I explore my artistic abilities by finally learning to paint, or writing a novel.
Creating, learning, exploring, nurturing, these are all at the heart of who we are as God’s creation. Timelessness, the eternity of Home, will allow God’s people the opportunity to do those things, free from the constraints of time, age, health, poverty, oppression and fear. Carpenters will compose symphonies, composers plant gardens, and chefs will build elegant furniture; in addition to learning parts of their craft they never could, and create what they always dreamed of. And all of it will be done as an expression of love for God, and bring him glory and joy – even my bacon, cheddar and tomato sandwiches, and Tim’s guitar.