We had two full days off in a row, and we certainly made the most of it. We also didn’t sleep very much of it. The first night, we had a girls sleepover for Megan’s birthday party, which included a whole lot of pizza, funfetti cake (I know what you’re thinking, and no, we can’t get that here. It was sent with love all the way from America!) karaoke, games, foot massages, a movie, and a crazy amount of coffee the next morning. It was a classic girls’ sleepover that has probably never been done so good in all of West Africa.
I needed two more cups of coffee and a one hour nap to get me through the rest of the day, which involved preparing for party part two that night, this time for an African family that is precious to Megan and I. We brought out all our best party pizazz – beef stroganoff, sweet tea, popcorn for dessert (that’s a totally African thing that I’ve come to appreciate), a wild game of Uno, and a sweet time of worship. Honestly, I think they had just as good of a time if not better than the teens girls at the sleepover. After they left late that night, the room was empty but our hearts were overflowingly full. All Megan and I had to do was look at each other speechless and know that the other felt the same way – that we had experienced a piece of heaven in this house.
I’ve never really felt Jesus so strongly at a sleepover, but it was like he was there as we laughed together and loved on one another. We didn’t even set aside a devotional time. We didn’t have to, because Jesus was talked about and praised throughout the entire night. And then when the African family came over, we sat on the porch and shared life stories of how God has been with us through hard times. It was only natural to share a joyous meal together and then fall directly into a time of spontaneous worship.
I think heaven will be a little bit like that. Only something like ten thousand times better because we only think we know what heaven will be like when the reality of it will absolutely blow our minds and fill us with awe, wonder, surprise, and ultimately worship.
Perhaps we will enjoy friendship and laughter and love, good food and fellowship, worship like we’ve never known it, and good conversation. Only we won’t have to talk about how she lost her baby suddenly to malaria before he was even two years old. Maybe she will tell the story in heaven as an example of how God’s amazing love and presence got her through the most difficult time in her life, but the child himself will be bouncing at her knee listening to her talk about it with a smile instead of a tear.
But I don’t want to get carried away talking about heaven for all the wrong reasons. Sometimes we talk about the good things about heaven and leave out the very best thing. As if we look forward to heaven because there will be no more tears. No more poverty. The things that are broken will be made whole. How we will get to do all the things we love with the people we love. All that’s good but that can’t be the reason we look forward to heaven; because if that’s it, then we are missing the main thing.
Jesus will be there.
A lot of people talk about heaven without talking about Jesus, which is really pretty weird. Is the reason we look forward to heaven because of our own unending happiness in doing what we love and being with who we loved on earth…or is it simply and only him?
God has spent eternity creating us, pursuing us, chasing after us, making a plan of salvation for us and then executing it himself by a sacrificial, torturous death on a cross, and then working personally in each of our lives to draw us to himself. He has prepared a place for us in heaven, and his prayer is that we know him and be with him forever in his glory.
And then when we think of heaven, we look forward to our dogs being there and that we can eat ice cream without getting fat.
Don’t get me wrong; we will so enjoy every part of heaven – the people, the mansions, the new adventures, the recreation of a new heaven and a new earth that will be a totally perfect place…but all that is only enjoyable first and foremost because He is there.
I wonder if we won’t have dinner parties in heaven. Only Jesus will be there to take his place at the table. For those of us who have been in heaven for a while, we will have expected his coming. For those who are newly arrived, we will watch them experience the “HE’S HERE!” reaction that we all had the first few times we met him at one of our normal, daily events. And so, we experience the wonder of his presence over and over again like it’s the very first time, and everywhere he is, there will be rejoicing and wonder-filled welcome. But he won’t be a celebrity that you see from afar and wish you could only touch or talk to for a minute; he will be everybody’s best friend, always accessible, always acting like you are the only reason he came to the dinner party in the first place.
When we think about heaven, we must think about him. When we talk about heaven, we must talk about him. If the streets are made of gold and there is no more disease and dying, but he is not there, I don’t want to go. And forget the pearly gates and banquet table, I would spent eternity in the desert if that’s where Jesus was.
Let’s keep longing for heaven, and let’s also wake up and place the spotlight where it belongs. Heaven won’t be awesome because of ice cream and pets. It will be awesome because of him. We will finally see him face to face. Imagine: we’ve lived an entire life loving and following someone we haven’t even seen yet. Oh how much more we will love him when we finally see him! And we will have endless time to spend with him, which allows us to enjoy spending endless time with the people we love, maybe even involving karaoke and Uno, pets and ice cream. But really, who cares? Wherever he is and whatever we end up doing with him, it will be so good. Like ten thousand times better than what we could ever even imagine.
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