A few months ago, P and I went on a long road trip with my sister-in-law and her sweet children. We spent eleven hours in a mini-van with a one year old, a four year old and a five month old. It actually was not half as hectic as I had expected, it always seems that way after the fact. One of the things that kept the two older kids entertained was a CD of Veggie Tales singing familiar praise songs on repeat. Now, while the vocal quality was perhaps not ideal (squeaky broccoli and asparagus children must not have access to voice lessons) my nephew loved this recording. He knew all the words to every song and sang them at the top of his lungs. His favorite was, “I Can Only Imagine.” I’ve heard this song many times, but those words have never affected me the way that they did when sung by this child with his clear, soprano, boy voice. Every time the chorus came around, he raised his chin and almost shouted with excitement and abandon:
“Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel? Will I dance for you Jesus or in awe of you be still? Will I stand in Your presence or to my knees will I fall? Will I sing, hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all? I can only imagine!”
It wasn’t long before I had tears rolling down my cheeks. I was not only touched to hear a four year old singing about the Savior, but his absolute delight was such a picture of what my hope of heaven should be. (I was sitting in the backseat crying while my sister-in-law gave me questioning looks in the rearview mirror...)
In a recent sermon, my pastor said “Heaven should be more real to us than the air we breathe.” Too often, Heaven seems like a distant dream or safety net or something that stands between me and anxiety for my life or the lives of friends and family. The thought of Heaven can be comforting if we have lost someone dear to us, but Heaven cannot be just comfort in a world that is full of sin and pain. It’s not just a place we will go to escape death or to be reunited with loved ones who have gone before—as true as those things are, they pale in comparison with what we have been promised.
In Heaven, we will stand in the presence of the Father and the Son. We will be glorified, not even a shadow of our old desire to sin will remain. We will worship with abandon and rejoice in the majesty and power of God and His amazing work of Salvation. This is what we should long for with every fiber of our beings! This is what we should be thankful for with every breath!
Thanksgiving is coming up next week. Many families have traditions that involve each person listing something that they are thankful for. We have lots of blessings to name, all for which we should be truly thankful--God’s good gifts like family, friends, church families, health, jobs, this country, and a place to live. But, even if we had none of these things, we would still have cause for real thanksgiving. As children of God, no matter what the circumstances, we have the hope of Heaven. We should throw our arms up, tilt our heads back, dance and shout with joy because we know that we will one day stand in the presence of God. This Thanksgiving, enjoy family and good food and good wine, remembering that as good as these things are, they are mere crumbs of the feast that we will enjoy eternally in Heaven with our Lord and Savior.