Finding Paradise

Heaven is hard. I’ve been wrestling with it a lot lately, and I can’t quite figure out why. It might be that it’s something which I’ve never internalized as true, and God’s finally getting around to challenging me on it. It might be that I don’t actually know what it is and I’m getting curious. It might be that I really want to be there, or it might be that I really don’t. The point is, there’s a lot I’m not sure about. Oftentimes, when I’m stuck on something, writing helps me get to a point of [somewhat] greater understanding, so I’m going to give that a try. Gird your loins for an annoying post, folks, because I’ve got some stuff to work through.

There’s one question in particular that has been searing itself into my brain for the last few weeks – What would it look like if I lived like heaven was real? It’s a tough one, but it’s been weighing me down. So I want to get to the bottom of it.

Alright, before we get to trying to answer that, I’m going to try something, if you’ll bear with me. I’d like to figure out why this might matter, to make sure I have a genuine reason to search for such an answer…

————————-[LOGIC TIME!]————————-

We know some things. We know that faith saves us, not works. So from that perspective, I don’t need to worry about how I live. But slow down for a second there, buddy, because we also know that works are actually the fruit of true faith (carefully read James 2). So it should follow that my actions are indicative of where my faith lies. And that should suggest that my actions are also indicative of where my faith doesn’t lie. So if a vital part of the Gospel, such as our final and eternal reconciliation with our maker, doesn’t seem to affect the way I act or really manifest itself in my life in any way, then that can only point to one thing. I don’t believe in the whole Gospel.

Well, looks like we figured it out. And it hurts. It hurts quite a bit. But hey, sometimes good things hurt us.

——————–[THANKS FOR PLAYING LOGIC TIME!]——————–

So now I know that it matters. It definitely matters. And as I sit here looking at what I just wrote, it becomes more and more obvious. And I feel more and more embarrassed. How can I live, let alone serve or minister or love, in the name of something I can’t even stomach myself?

Maybe that’s a question for another post… For now I’m going to get back to the topic at hand.

My sister, otherwise known as the person with the largest impact on my short and consistently embarrassing life, once told me that every single thing God does in our lives serves the single purpose of bringing us closer to Him. When I think about heaven, I guess I think of it as the result of this process. Being in the world always presents a barrier between us and the Lord. He does what He can for us during our lives, but as soon as we’re no longer stuck here, He can finally bring us home. He just wants us with Him. This is beautiful, and I love it more than just about anything else. But I don’t know if I really believe it. I definitely don’t live like I do. So let’s get back to my original question: what would it look like if I did?

Maybe if I believed I was bound for heaven, I would have more peace. I would be able to let go of the things I pretend I’m able to let go of – old friendships, grades, mistakes I’m still ashamed of, love of attention and revenge and money and appearances and myself. I would face doubts and questions with calm confidence in the truth of God’s word. I wouldn’t escape so much into video games, movies, and my own dumb imagination. I would understand the importance of entering into God’s rest, both in my life and after it (Hebrews 3-4).

Maybe if I believed in heaven, I would live with urgency. Instead of wanting to spend more time with unsaved friends now, I would want to spend eternity with them. I wouldn’t be so damn scared of speaking up about my faith. I would have a reason to live boldly. I would challenge myself and others. I would ask questions that matter. I would be willing to stand out, to be different from everyone else I know.

Maybe if I believed in heaven, I would trust God. I would know that most of the time, I don’t know best. I would spend less time desperately trying to construct an identity for myself. I would know what I was headed towards and know that it is good. I wouldn’t be so attracted to the wide path away from God. I would be less afraid to be honest with Him and more afraid to disobey Him. I would go to church instead of hitting the snooze button. I would want to help Him bring me closer to my home.

If I’m right about any of that, I’m heartbroken over what I’ve been missing out on. But I hope I’m right. Because if I’m right, I’ve got a beautiful life to strive for. My sister has told me that if I’m not growing towards the Lord, I’m growing away from Him. I believe this to be true, because I believe that faith takes work. In my experience, faith is something that needs to be fed and exercised and challenged. So that’s what I’m going to do to mine. I’m going to dwell on this topic. I’m going to pray on it and ask people about it. I’m not going to let it go. I’m going to find relevant truth in art and reason alike. I’m going to grow towards God. And soon, hopefully, I’ll believe in heaven.

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A Nail in my Boot

“For the old humility made a man doubtful about his efforts, which might make him work harder. But the new humility makes a man doubtful about his aims, which will make him stop working altogether.” - G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

In my few years since becoming a disciple, humility may be the virtue that has puzzled, intrigued, and challenged me most. Maybe that’s because before I was saved I hid all my self-hatred under a veil of “humility,” or maybe it’s just because it’s something that’s hard to live out. Pride, after all, is something that I find to be at the root of a lot of my sins. 

(Wait. I’m going to slow down for a second, because I don’t want to blaspheme here. Sin, meaning the separation of mankind from God’s love, which necessitated Jesus’ sacrifice, is the root of everything that isn’t good. When I say that pride is at the root of many of my sins, I don’t mean that my actions or beliefs caused my sinful state of being. What I mean to say is that pride, the worship of the self, has plagued us since it caused the fall and tends to lead to a litany of other unhealthy behaviors and mindsets.) 

As I was saying, humility has been hard for me. My number one way of approaching humility has usually been to view myself as honestly as I could, taking in both the good and the bad. I never want to think too highly of myself, but I don’t want to disregard or diminish what I’m good at either – I wasn’t blessed with positive qualities so that I could deny and squander them. I find this outlook to be relatively easy to conceptualize, but harder to put into practice. A faithful, devoted life is a balancing act in countless ways. I get carried away loving myself just as often as I go overboard in hating myself. Overcorrection has been my enemy on multiple occasions. 

As helpful and seemingly simple as that perspective has been, something I read tonight makes me think it isn’t complete. Chesterton writes that without humility, we place too large a value on our own happiness, and lose our ability to be awed by the scale of our world – “if a man would make his world large, he must be always making himself small.” Everything grand that we’ve imagined, created, or dreamt has been a result of humility, he argues. 

It hits me as I consider this that I’ve been trying to get the wrong results from my humility. I thought of it as a way to live more mildly, more meekly. It’s not. It’s an inspiration to act, to pursue something huge, to chase something new, to genuinely challenge myself. It was meant to be “a spur that prevented a man from stopping; not a nail in his boot that prevented him from going on.” Yet that’s exactly what it’s been for me – a reason to stop. 

I struggle constantly to reconcile different pieces of theology – I’m content to analyze in parts ideas that are meant to add to each other and create something that actually matters. I suffer because of it. The Lord has plans to prosper me, plans to give me a future (Jeremiah 29:11), but I’m too busy observing to do anything about it. I live as if I’d rather observe Him from afar than walk alongside him. I’d like to change that. When I see myself as I truly am – absolutely insignificant – I want to find hope in the knowledge that my aims are true. I want to be pushed forward, not held back. I want to believe not in my own ability to achieve great things, but in the beauty of what I’m working for. I’m tired of feeling hopeless and discouraged when I realize how unimportant my life’s work is likely to be. I’m more than ready to recognize that God is on my side, and that nothing can stand in my way because of that (Romans 8:31). 

So that’s what I’ll be praying for. 

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