Monday, August 8, 2011

A New View of Heaven

Water … as clear as crystal.

These words entice me. You see, I live in a neighborhood on the Chickahominy River. It’s a little known river where some very famous events took place. Anyone familiar with the story of John Smith, John Rolfe, & Pocahontas?

I’m not sure what the river looked like 400 years ago, but now the Chickahominy can be described as anything but crystal clear. It’s one of those bodies of water where your feet disappear when you dangle your legs off the dock. So when I hear about crystal clear water, I perk up.

Some of you may be thinking, pool. Ever opened your eyes in a pool that appears to be crystal clear? I bet your eyes paid for it.

No, these words are found in a verse in Revelation and are used to describe the river of life in heaven.

My perspective on heaven used to go something like this: Heaven sounds great with its streets of gold, flowing rivers, and chorus of angels, but for now I’m enjoying life here on earth. I relish the good food, making memories, and learning new things. There are also many things I look forward to. Growing old gracefully, traveling outside the south quarter of the U.S., and becoming a grandmother. Heaven sounds nice, I thought, but if it’s all right with you God, I’d rather keep having fun here.

Then, when I was 32 years old, I was diagnosed with type-1 Diabetes. I was angry and didn’t understand. Didn’t God love me? Hadn’t I grown closer to Him over the years and learned to be obedient to Him?

Since then God has used my diagnosis to help open my eyes to a Biblical view of heaven and a heart’s aching to be there. A diagnosis of a chronic illness is often seen as a curse. While it is part of living in a cursed world, it can also be something God can work for my good and His glory. And He has.

I no longer think of heaven as a nice place to go after I’ve worked as hard as I can to avoid going there as long as I can.

Now, to me, heaven means no more daily insulin shots, being mindful of every single bite I eat, exhaustion from sugar highs and weakness from sugar lows.

A perfect heaven free from all death, mourning, crying, and pain sounds marvelous. Living in God’s holy presence and not having to battle with sin sounds divine. A city that shines like a precious jewel, gates made of pearl and streets of gold. Now that’s something a girl can get excited about!

And the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. I bet my feet won’t disappear in that.

We often want things to be perfect and easy here on earth. But I now know that He’s called me not just to enjoy this life and its earthly pleasures. No, He desires that I look with longing towards the home He has prepared for me, to show others His glory through faith in His Son, and to let Him work through me while I’m here. Part of that is allowing me to experience a tiny portion of the suffering that millions experience from hunger, disease, persecution, chronic pain, and heartache.

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