Heaven, Our Home
Heaven, Our Home
by Sara Nolt
This article first appeared in the September/October 2016 print edition of Daughters of Promise.
My husband and I started dating while I was teaching school in a Ghanaian village and he was more than 5,000 miles away in America. Aside from the postal service which delivered letters nearly a month after they were sent, our communication was limited to e-mail on weekends and to phone calls once a month when I would get to a city with reliable cell phone reception. “Reliable” is relative terminology and only meant my borrowed phone showed enough bars of service to make a call without climbing a tree to catch the signal, a trick that worked in the village. But the city’s cell phone coverage didn’t mean connections were good. Our conversations were plagued with phrases like “Are you still there?” “Can you hear me?” “Could you repeat that?” “Sorry, I couldn’t catch that” and sometimes dreadful silence told me we lost connection.
After five months of sketchy communication, I flew back home knowing I would be met by John at the airport. My small army of pictures of him and the long-distance communication had become poor substitutes for being together in person. John felt the same way.
“Anticipation is high on seeing you,” he communicated with me. “If an earthly meeting can bring this much happiness and excitement, what will it be like when we get to heaven and see Jesus?”
Being together in person was all we thought it would be. The pictures of John which I dearly loved in our separation weren’t needed when we sat across a table, talking. I could watch his eyes twinkle when he laughed. I could hear his voice clearly now with no miserable phone connection to cut our sentences short. Better than that, we could communicate with no words at all. Exchanging happy looks is a language of its own and totally possible when we were together.
John took me to my parents’ home. The house I lived in since babyhood was filled with the same wonderful people, love, and happiness I remembered. Things I hadn’t even realized I missed seemed to reach out to welcome me: soft, carpeted floors, couches long enough to stretch out on, a bookcase full of old friends, and even the familiar squeak of the front door. Home wrapped itself around me as a year’s separation melted swiftly away. That separation had been the hardest thing of all. I missed out on holidays and special events. I missed family more than anything else in the world. But now with my commitment complete, it felt good to be surrounded by those I loved. Clichès aside, there is no place like home.
I look back on that homecoming and know that in it I have tasted a tiny fraction of the joys of heaven. The things that meant the most upon my return are only the dimmest shadows, the faintest whispers of heavenly things. And since these mere whispers bring so much satisfaction, my longing is deepened for the day when the joys of heaven are no longer shadowy whispers but thunders of reality.
One day we are going home. We are only soldiers on tour of duty, fraught with hardship, separation, and sometimes sketchy communication. But the day is coming when our assignment will be over, we can lay down our sword and be surrounded with all the joys of home.
The end of separation is high on my list of things I look forward to in heaven. Being with Jesus in person will be far better than being with John, as much as I loved that reunion. I can hardly wait. Plus, though heaven isn’t all about family reunions, we will eternally be together with those we are separated from now.
I want to talk to Jesus, to exchange wordless looks, to be able to communicate without the sketchy connection I sometimes feel I’m dealing with. Through the Bible, I know he approves of me, but I look forward to hearing a physical voice tell me I’ve done well. I want to see His approval written on His face.
And I want to tell him in person I’m so grateful for His suffering, that he made my entrance to heaven possible. I can’t earn it. Even at my very best, I can’t do a thing worthy of heaven. But his blood cloaks me in righteousness until I’m worthy of heaven.
Worship is one of those ways I feel so limited in here. Between seeing heavenly things through a “glass darkly” and my own limitations, sometimes I feel like my worship is much too hindered. I want the real thing. In heaven, I will know what true worship is all about and I look forward to an eternity of that.
The end of hard things
Life is full of hard things. This past week my two sisters went back to America after three wonderful weeks of visiting me in Ghana. We cried together when they left as a truly physical ache gripped my heart. I closed our big, metal gate behind them, my tears blurring the whole lonely world they left me in. It was hard.
I listened to a friend tell me about choices she is faced with about peer pressure, about being laughed at by her friends for making wise decisions she’ll never, ever regret. It is hard.
I read the news and hear about injustice, war, pain, and suffering. People are dying for their faith. (And, worse, people are dying without faith.) It is unbelievably hard.
There are all kinds of hard. But in heaven, our home, we will be secure and safe, and suffering will be ended. Hard things will be done away with and we can offer our battle wounds to Jesus saying to Him, “Jesus, it was hard. But on earth I believed that this moment would make up for all that pain. Your Word was right. If I could measure the suffering I went through on earth with this joy, it doesn’t even come close to the glory You have enshrouded me in. You are worth it!”
Sometimes, or maybe often, hard things are a direct result of sin. Heaven will be an end of that, too. No sin. No temptation. No Satan with his deception and vices. I can hardly wait.
The culmination of missionary efforts
Pardon me, but even if you aren’t ‘into missions’ you probably are grateful to the kind missionary who talked to your barbaric, Viking ancestors and led them to believe in Christ. And because they did, you know Jesus today and are invited to live in heaven tomorrow. There are still sinners and there are still people telling them about Jesus.
Revelation 5:9 paints a picture of every tribe and language praising God around His throne, declaring his worth and praise and glory. It is the ultimate worship, the culmination of all Jesus did for the world. Every sermon preached, counselling session given, every evening spent without a dad or husband because they are doing kingdom work will be more than rewarded in heaven.
Faith becomes sight
John told me he would pick me up at the airport. He said he was looking forward to being with me. Then faith in his words became reality when we were together. I saw love in his eyes and though it surprised me that he would love me like that, it was indisputable for three months later he married me.
It might be inconceivable, but we have only tasted a fraction of the love of Jesus. When we get to heaven, that faint shadow will be clear. While by faith we believe He loved us enough to die for us, in heaven we will see it in his eyes. We will breathe it. Love that never fades or grows old will be eternal reality.
Today it can be hard to walk by faith in spiritual things. We like physical stuff. We like seeing where we are going and what we believe in. But much of Christianity requires great faith. In heaven the need for faith will be ended. No more shame over realizing you lacked faith. Faith will become sight.
Are you still with me, reader? Heaven is your home. You were not meant to live forever where you are faced with hard assignments, separations, sorrow, limited communication, and mere whispers of joy. You were created for something far greater than this.
You were created for the day you can lay down your sword and be done with hard things. You were created to be face to-face with Jesus and to praise God throughout eternity. Your voice was born so it could join the throng at the foot of his throne. You were created for the day when whispers of heavenly things will be exchanged for the thundering praises sung by the ransomed around the world.
Very soon, homesick one, He will come for us and we can finally go home.