Looking Forward to Heaven

haloContinued from here.

I’m not sure how good of a job I did in explaining C.S. Lewis’ views of heaven in his book, The Problem of Pain. I encourage you to read his book for yourself – it’s one of the most profound books I have ever read!

As I said when I started this series, I don’t generally spend much time thinking about heaven. I have enough to keep me busy here on earth, and all I need to know is that heaven is going to be good. I have never really seen the point in speculating about it. However, after reading Lewis’ perspective, I have a different mindset because what he shared resonates deeply with me.

I have experienced much pain in my life. Yes, I know that everyone experiences pain, but I have lived most of my life believing that God went overboard in allowing as much pain into my life as He did, particularly in my childhood. It seemed so unfair. However, when I can view what I am learning here on earth through that pain as preparing me for the rhythms of heaven, I am able to view my circumstances and experiences differently. God isn’t “picking on me.” He has actually given me a gift that drove me into His arms, and that yearning I feel inside for something just beyond my reach will one day know fulfillment.

I love the notion of being able to experience God in a deeply intimate way that that takes nothing away from your ability to experience Him in an equally intimate, and yet different, way than I do. That’s a concept I don’t have to wait to get to heaven to start applying – I can do that now. In this earthly body, it’s ingrained that whatever is given to you must be taken away from me and vice versa, but you and I can both become our truest selves with deeply personal and intimate relationships with God that are very different from one another. What’s even better is that I benefit from your deepening relationship with God just as you benefit from mine. This helps me better understand the Body of Christ and my role in it. Thanks, C.S. Lewis!

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace wearing a halo. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

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Creating a Heavenly Symphony

saxContinued from here.

In his book, The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis uses the analogy of a heavenly orchestra in which all of the individual instruments play together in harmony as one to create beautiful music together. If you, I, and everyone else in heaven were the same, it would be comparable to all of us playing a C# on a flute. That would not be a very interesting piece of music to listen to. The beauty of a symphony comes from many different types of instruments playing different notes in harmony, creating beautiful music that wouldn’t sound that great if you only listened to one of the instruments in isolation.

The music we create comes from continually giving of ourselves so we may fill up with God. The process of emptying ourselves creates the music that we add to the harmony of heaven,

…and the great master Himself leads the revelry, giving Himself eternally to His creatures in the generation, and back to Himself in the sacrifice, of the Word, then indeed the eternal dance ‘makes heaven drowsy with the harmony.’”

Lewis then ties this concept in with the premise of his book by pointing out that the suffering we endure on earth is preparing us for the dance of heaven:

All pains and pleasures we have known on earth are early initiations in the movements of that dance: but the dance itself is strictly incomparable with the sufferings of this present time. As we draw nearer to its uncreated rhythm, pain and pleasure sink almost out of sight.”

I have even considered the orchestra in my own life. My life has had many low notes on the bass and tuba from the painful experiences I have been through, but I have also experienced the high notes of the flute and violin through the joys. As I look back over my life, I have the ability to see both the joys and pains from the perspective of the totality of my life that I have trouble grasping during any particular season, whether joyful or painful. Every experience, woven together, has created a song that is my own – one that only the Father hears. As I continue to learn to empty myself and fill up with Him, I prepare myself for the dance of heaven.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace playing the saxophone. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Union Rather than Sameness in Heaven

sameContinued from here.

In his book, The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis goes on to point out that “union exists only between distincts.” In other words, if you and I were exactly the same, there would be no need for union: we could simply merge into each other and become one, which is the belief system of some religions … that we are each one drop of a large ocean and that we return to oneness when we die. However, as Lewis pointed out,

God created: He caused things to be other than Himself that, being distinct, they might learn to love Him, and achieve union instead of mere sameness.”

So, Lewis believes that when we get to heaven, we will become the best versions of our distinctive selves, more “ourselves” than we have ever been with our sin nature removed. And it’s in that distinctiveness that “the union of reciprocal love” brings us into unity with the Trinity – parts that are different and yet One in their distinctiveness through reciprocal love. So, according to Lewis’ theory of heaven, we aren’t all going to be doing the same thing in the same way – no rows of us sitting on clouds playing our harps. Instead, my “job” in heaven will be perfectly suited for me, and your “job” in heaven will be perfectly suited for you as we love another along with everyone else in heaven as we do their own distinctive “jobs” and bless one another in unity, sealed in harmony through reciprocal love. How amazing does that sound!?!!

And, interestingly, we will become our best selves as we pour ourselves out. Relish these beautiful words by Lewis:

And as to God, we must remember that the soul is but a hollow which God fills. Its union with God is, almost by definition, a continual self-abandonment—an opening, an unveiling, a surrender, of itself.”

I will fill up with my own intimate understanding of God and pour it out for you and everyone else in heaven, and you will do the same. As we do this, we will simultaneously because the truest versions of ourselves we have ever been as we sweetly surrender ourselves to God. As Lewis puts it, as we surrender ourselves, we become our truest selves, continually emptying ourselves as we become more ourselves as we fill up with God.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace pointing to herself and saying, “Same!” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

C.S. Lewis’ Speculations about Heaven

Continued from here.

In his book The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis shared a very different view of heaven than I have ever heard anywhere else. The last chapter of the book is on heaven, which he sees as a place where God will enjoy those He loves. What a great starting point!

He then points out that each soul is unique – thus, each of us must have a separate, individualized role in heaven. Soak in the beauty of his words:

Your soul has a curious shape because it is a hollow made to fit a particular swelling in the infinite contours of the Divine substance, or a key to unlock one of the doors in the house with many mansions … God will look to every soul like its first love because He is its first love. Your place in heaven will seem to be made for you and you alone, because you were made for it—made for it stitch by stitch as a glove is made for a hand.”

Lewis believes that each of us has “experienced only the want of” whatever will fill us in heaven during our lifetime on this earth and that my “want of” is different from your “want of” and everyone else’s. God has placed inside of me the key to unlocking one aspect of His character that only I will get to experience one-on-one, which I will then share with everyone else in heaven. And then your key will unlock another aspect of His character that is personal only to you. I’ll have no need to envy whatever is in your room, nor will you need to envy mine, because everyone in heaven will share with one another whatever we discover/experience. Lewis words it this way:

Each of the redeemed shall forever know and praise some one aspect of the Divine beauty better than any other creature can.”

In other words, each of us will get the experience of being God’s “first love” and God being our “first love” because each of us will experience an aspect of God intimately in a way that nobody else ever has or ever will. Lewis quotes the Book of Revelation in support of this theory:

I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.” ~ Rev. 2:17

I love the idea of having a relationship so intimate with the Father that only He and I are privy to this name while, at the same time, not taking away from your intimate relationship with the Father.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cover of The Problem of Pain. Courtesy Amazon.]