And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. (Colossians 2:13-15 ESV)
I’ve been in the mountains, at a cabin in East Tennessee most of this week. My family and I are existing at an elevation that I am unused to, but it only took me about 10 minutes to start loving. I like the quiet of mountain mornings, the view of the faded purple peaks in the distance from the porch on the side of the cabin, and the openness that being in this environment entails.
However, this openness and freedom are not without exceptions. Thus far this week we have been visited by three bears. Not the three from the story, but a mother bear and two of her adolescent kids. They have prowled around the cabin at random times, checked the trash bags for tasty treats, and kept us on alert every time we have stepped out of the cabin. I’m not complaining. It’s these kind of things that create moments and memories that won’t fade like theme parks and restaurants have a tendency to do.
As I was sitting out reading from Colossians this morning, there was a rapturous realization of the joy of my salvation. The “alive-ness” that the miraculous work of God rendered in my heart was powerfully set to the backdrop of mountains and clouds and miles of scenery that stretched out in front of me. The “space” that salvation creates for me, and the increased range of motion that redemption offered me are things that I forget in my day to day, city-life, commute by commute life. But here, in this place, things feel different.
I was reminded of a passage from CS Lewis’ last book in the Chronicles of Narnia series, “The Last Battle”. I don’t have the book with me to quote, but the last part of the book was essentially a journey to Heaven, or at least the God-inspired afterlife. The small band of travelers was goaded time and time again to keep moving toward the promised land with the words, “Further up, farther in!” The reality of those words, the directional nature was what struck me initially. The reality of eternity spent with God is not one of escaping the reality of life as we know it, but finding out that life as we know it has only been able to offer us hints of what God has in store for us.
We are not promised escape from the earth in the end. What we are promised is something much more exciting. We will enjoy the earth as it was meant to be experienced: in perfection. God will offer us heaven as a destination, but what’s more than that, He will offer us earth as He made it for Adam and Eve. At first that might not seem like a destiny greater than heaven, but with a brief explanation the truth becomes clear.
We weren’t built to exist in heaven, angels were. We were formed, by God, after He had created the earth. We were created, it seems to me, uniquely fashioned to take advantage of everything God had created on the earth. This is our indigenous habitation. We belong here. To talk of the afterlife as if it were a place that we move away to makes us out to be some sort of eternally existing refugees.
In the final pages of the Pevansie children’s adventures we find them back in London, but not London as they remember London. A perfect London. Their parents are there, not hurt, not sick, not stressed or worried about the fate of their children, but they are there in perfect peace and joy.
As I look out around me and see the hills singing songs of freedom and mystery, I can’t help but wonder just how loudly they will sing once God has recreated this place to “fit” me after He has “fitted” me with a new body, a gloriously perfect body. So many of the things that have plagued me throughout my life, the fears and sickness and troubles and temptations, they will all be gone. The earth will be a perfectly tailored suit that the Father will drape over my healed shoulders and back. In that moment, as eternity is just beginning to “get going”, I will be assaulted, I believe, with the realization that this is exactly what I have always longed for.
It is that joy, beauty, and freedom that Jesus knew I needed access to. So He accepted the brutal and merciless beaten and execution that would allow me to live as He knew I was intended.
I will go home soon enough and feel the same pressures that I left at home, but my prayer this morning is simple. I pray that as life gets thicker and thicker that I would be compelled to look to the hills, look to the sky, look to the open spaces in this present world because my redemption is drawing near. The time is close, whether its 5 minutes from now or 500 years, it’s close.
Dream of what you know you want my friends. Dream of the things that satisfy you on a soul level. Even be so audacious as to pray to God to give you dreams of great things and joys bigger and deeper than even your wildest fancies are capable of conjuring. And as you dream those things, know without doubt that those things, and others that are unfathomable to you and I, are exactly what we will have in the end of this journey.