Heaven: Living in the Present
Can the memories of childhood give us a glimpse of heaven?
|I want to tell you a story about something that passed through my mind a couple of weeks ago. I was driving near my home in Carson. There’s a school there with a playground and I saw all of these kids playing on it. I had one of those experiences where you have an instance of psychological time travel. It was basically a split second because I was driving past when this happened so it didn’t take much time. But as I watched the kids play on the playground, hitting the tether ball and swinging from the jungle gym hanging upside down, I was psychologically transported back about forty years to the time when I was a child doing the same things. I mean psychologically because I didn’t see the circumstances of my childhood, I just for a brief moment felt the feeling of my childhood. The feeling was one of blissful uncomplication.I realized there is a very, very big difference between being a child and being an adult, apart from the obvious. Adults have responsibilities and they must plan, they must look to the future, they must take care of things, they must solve problems. But for the most part when you are a child, you don’t have that perspective. You don’t look far into the future because you just can’t see that far. You don’t have enough history to do so. You know little of responsibilities. Oh, make your bed, take out the trash, maybe. But you’re not thinking about talks next week or goals for the organization next year or retirement in 20 years. Those are totally foreign concepts to you. Because of the nature of being a child, you are more locked into the moment. You don’t have a past, really. Oh, a few years — five, six, seven, eight years — and half of those you can’t remember because you were an infant. So you have no past to reflect on. You have very little history.
Because of that, you also don’t project far into the future, worrying about things because all of your needs are taken care of if you have a reasonably responsible family. You come home at night, you know there is going to be food on the table. You’ve got a bed to sleep in. You know there will be clothes on your back. You don’t have to worry about anything except for a few rules and getting your homework done. But the world of your responsibility is shrunken down to something very, very small. They are responsibilities in the moment. To put it simply, when you are a child, you live much more in the moment. There’s not much of a past to remember and there’s not enough understanding of the future to reach very far ahead.
Do you remember when you started the school year when you were in fourth grade? September? It seemed like an eternity to Christmas! Never mind the next vacation. And when June 8, 9, or 10 rolled around, it was Summer for us in Chicago in parochial school and the public school — none of this July 1 business. We were usually out of school by my birthday which is June 10. It seemed like a vast eternity of summertime stretched ahead because we were in the moment. It seemed that summer would never end. And then when we were in school again, it seemed like school would never end. You get my sense about the way it is with children.
Now, here’s the application. As I reflected on that split second of psychological time travel, I had a kind of rest that you can’t have very often as an adult. You can’t have it because it’s just not the nature of being an adult. You’re tied to the past — you have a history. You’re tied to the future — you have responsibilities. As an adult, you’re concerned about those things and you carry its burden for your four score and ten years. The reflection I had really had to do with Heaven. People say that when we’re in heaven we pass out of time and into eternity. That doesn’t mean that there will be no time, because even in heaven there is the passage of time. If there were no time, there would be no activity. We would not be able to do anything. We would be frozen in immobility if we were outside of time. If there is cause and effect in heaven, if there are things that we do in sequence, then there is time. Because we do A, then we do B, which causes C. Once we have C, A and B done, they are in the past to us. So there is time in heaven. But I think what is really going on in Heaven — and this is what’s important, not whether there is time or not, but the nature of our existence — is going to be much more like when we were children. Because the past will be inconsequential.We will not be living anymore with the consequences of the past — maybe bad decisions that we made or difficulties that we’re facing as a result of things we did in the past. We will not be living a contingent existence in that fashion. The future is also irrelevant because it won’t be our job to worry about solving problems in the future. We will be doing things and will be engaged in meaningful activity. I think this much can be gleaned from the Scriptures. But we won’t be worrying because we will be fully secure. There won’t be problems we have to solve, not in a negative sense. It won’t be toil to work, though there will be work.
What this means is, there will be time, but no history. No clocks to look at. No appointments you have to make sure you’re on time for. Our existence, though in time, will be fully focused in the present. Because of that, I think we will experience some of the relief and the pure joy of being that we experienced when we were children. That one brief, psychological glimpse I had of the past as I drove by the playground will be for us. There will be a time when the toil will be behind us, the tears will be gone, the worry will be no more and we will enter into a meaningful, productive, active, working existence in which there will be no toil, no problems, no difficulties in the negative sense of the word. There will be only meaningful, joyful, fulfilling, unstressful activity in a perfect environment with God by our side. Boy, that sounds great to me. I’m ready!