My friends have a sign at their lake cabin: “What happens at the cabin, stays at the cabin.” A spin off, I’m sure, of the slogan, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” The implication being this is a safe place to let your hair down and be yourself. A place of confidentiality and perhaps a place to do things you wouldn’t normally do in public. One’s imagination can run amuck with that thought!
So when I saw an article titled, “What Happens in Heaven,” my mind filled in, “stays in heaven” and I immediately experienced mental whiplash as I almost said “NO!” out loud. The author’s article was about heaven, which was all well and good. But I was totally derailed by the emotional leap I’d already taken.
I suppose much of what happens in heaven, does stay in heaven. I really don’t have a clue what it’s like there. On one hand, the apostle John records fantastic visions of God’s throne room and heavenly hosts. On the other, author Paul Young portrays Father, Son and Spirit sharing the day’s events around the kitchen table eating chicken, rice and greens. I’m wowed by the first but I’m warmed by the second.
I believe much of what has happened in heaven has had everything to do with us on earth. For starters, the Father’s overflowing love prompted our very creation. A heavenly war between good and evil perpetuated an ongoing battle of the same in humanity. The biblical narrative relates numerous earthly encounters with angelic beings on various assignments, one of which announced God himself coming to dwell with mankind as one of us.
Now that was just plain crazy talk! Why on earth (or should I say, why in heaven) would God want to come here? Comparatively, the physical limitations, squalor, frustration and pain are mind-boggling. It would be like me going out to live in my flower bed with my pansies, experiencing life sustained by soil and rainfall, while hoping not to get trampled by the neighborhood kids or “marked” by my own dog. I’m just not that motivated to relate with my flowers! But God was with us.
How did the God who created the intricacies of our human bodies, himself become an embryo in Mary’s womb? What was it like to learn to crawl and then to walk and to form words into sentences when you were the One who created all the beasts of the earth and gave birds their songs? How does the Creator of space and galaxies study math and physics as a child? What were his thoughts experiencing physical exertion and pain as he learned to wield carpentry tools in his father’s shop? Was he ever surprised by how visceral the feelings of happiness or grief or love can be?
Heaven didn’t stay in heaven. Emmanuel. God with us. A heavenly King surrounded by worshipping choirs, came to sit and eat at earthly dinner tables. Yes ladies, he belched and scratched. But he also laughed and hugged and cried. A being unlimited by time and space, voluntarily limited by how far his legs could carry him in a day’s walk. The Power of all creation, constrained by bone, muscle and tendon. Heaven was human. Motivated by a depth of love unimaginable to us. Creator, wanting to be personally known by his creation. Who can grasp that? A desire to reveal the Father’s love for us, so deep that Jesus would come here to walk with us, laugh with us, suffer for us and die for us. And he didn’t stop there. Earth then went back to heaven and sent the Spirit to work here in us, forever linking us to God. And as if that were not enough, Jesus, now as God/man, forever changed heaven with his humanity.
No. What happens in heaven doesn’t stay in heaven. Heaven has walked earth and still dwells within us. And earth now walks in heaven. We are intimately known, we are accepted and we are deeply loved. And that, my friends, is very good news!
Author: Sue Berger