Friday, April 30, 2010

Heavenly Thoughts

I recently watched an old movie, well, ok, maybe 1989 is not old to some! Richard Dreyfuss and Holly Hunter start in Always, a film about a firefighter pilot and his love interest. If you don’t want to know the outcome…read no further!

Alas, the character Richard Dreyfuss plays (Pete) ends up unintentionally sacrificing himself to save a buddy flying with an engine on fire. Pete’s not quite ready to leave earth though.

At one point, Pete makes a statement that I’ve been replaying over and over in my head. Whether these are the exact words or not, they’re the words behind all my reflecting, “The only pain you feel in heaven is the pain from the love you held back on earth.”

Hmmm. Is that theologically sound? I took an independent study in seminary and wrote a paper on heave. Pretty presumptuous, I know. It’s not like I’ve been there yet. But I think we get glimpses of heaven here on earth. I’ve had some interesting experiences that make me wonder. The Scottish/Irish in me resonates with the Celtic understanding of “thin places”…places where the veil between the physical and spiritual seems particularly thin. I’ve heard of first-person accounts of out-of-body experiences while undergoing surgery. I’ve heard some interesting stories from folks. Life and death and the transition between life and death are touched by mystery.

I can’t help but think of Revelation 21.1-4, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

“There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain…” …well, ok, that seems to answer my question, “Is Pete’s statement theologically sound?” Or does it? I don’t want to sound heretical, if I can help it. I admit, I believe things will be different in heaven. But I also believe how we live our life now makes a difference. Not that we “earn” our way to heaven, but I agree with many Christian authors who talk about our lives here on earth as a sort of training for heaven.

Here’s the rub. If you’ve experienced pain in this life, you want to believe that there will be no more pain in heaven. But what if we give up loving to our fullest potential while we wait for the other side of this life and death? Are there consequences? Do we continue to keep growing in heaven? Is that growth affected by how we grow and love in this life?

I guess that’s what intrigues me about Pete’s statement. What do we hold back from God? What love do we hold back from others? What if we intentionally sacrificed our egos (not in an unhealthy, codependent way) and earnestly tried (with help from the Spirit of God) to love more fully than ever before? What if we worked to be as spiritually and emotionally and relationally healthy as we can be…even if it caused us temporary discomfort? What would be the consequences of that?

Just some thoughts…

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