I’m sure you’ve all heard the Brenda Carlisle song, “Heaven is a Place on Earth”. It has all the wonderful catchiness of just about all 80′s pop songs. Although it was made 3 years before I was born, I willingly admit that I’ve danced to it many, many times. And sang along. I’m cool like that.
But, Heaven on Earth goes way beyond any teenie-bopper-focused 80′s lovey-dovey pop song. I was given some clarity of this recently.
I made the trek home from Kansas City for Christmas, and spent the Saturday night before the holiday at the home of my best friends, a married couple I went through high school with. When they mentioned church the next morning, I agreed to attend — I was actually rather bummed to be missing Christmas season services at my church in KC, and missing the smiles of my congregational family. And the lesson for that service was beautiful.
Pastor Patty of Our Savior Lutheran in Bradley, IL spoke about the thinness of the veil between Heaven and Earth, God and his people here in the material world. As Pastor Patty went on to describe this, I was reminded of all the beautiful ways that I’ve seen God in my life.
One of the first experiences I remember along these lines was on my high school trip to Mexico. We stood on the shoreline of Isla Mujeres, looking at the rocks where white sand beaches once lay. We had woken up at about 4 a.m. to catch the sunrise over the Atlantic, and were heading back to American later that day. Those beaches had been the major source of income to the tourism-heavy island. The tiny Isla had lost all of its eastward facing beaches to a hurricane just a few seasons before, and the island was slowly, but surely, coming back to life after the devastating damage and economic loss from that storm. Seeing both the raw beauty and the wild chaos of nature, all in one moment…it leaves someone in awe. Add in the resilience, hope, and faith of the Isla residents…it gives you this feeling deep in your chest, a certainty that He is up there.
I remember feeling it the first time I ever saw the Rocky Mountains, on my drive out to California. I was in Wyoming. I was driving west, facing sunset as I approached those stone behemoths. And again, I had the feeling.
While it isn’t something I talk about a lot, high school and college were a time of spiritual confusion for me. I went to church because that’s what you’re supposed to do. It’s experiences like this that led up to my rediscovery of faith since arriving in Kansas City.
But it isn’t just these experiences involving natural sights. It’s experiences involving people. It’s the feeling I get when I read about someone going over and above to improve lives around them. It’s what I feel in my gut when I witness a random act of kindness. It’s the hope that allows us to hang on when life’s turbulent trajectory jars our steadfast grip.
God is all around us. He shows Himself in the beauty of the world around us and the compassion of the human race. We see brief flashes of Heaven, as a promise of what’s to come. We feel the love of other people as a testament to God’ love for all of us.
But, if that’s a bit too heavy for you…