A touching story from long ago tells of a young boy who lived in the distant reaches of the vast Canadian prairies. His family was impoverished, and parents and children alike had to labor day and night to prove their homestead claim. There was little time for anything beyond work, little money for anything beyond the barest essentials. They lived a harsh, rugged, hand-to-mouth existence.
A day came when that boy’s father dispatched him to town to fetch supplies, so he dutifully saddled up a pony and made the long journey toward the newly-founded settlement and the railway depot that stood at its center. It was there, alongside the fresh tracks that stretched from horizon to horizon, that he had a chance encounter with a businessman who was traveling from east to west and who came bearing a few exotic gifts—oranges he had brought from far in the southern climes.
When the businessman saw that poor dusty boy in his ragged clothes, he felt pity, and in an act of generosity offered him a piece of his fruit. The boy tasted that orange and his eyes immediately brightened, his face immediately lit up, for he was certain he had never tasted anything so sweet, so wonderful, so delicious. And from that day forward he dreamed of visiting the land where oranges grow. He did not know quite where that land was, he did not know quite the direction it laid, but he was certain it existed for he had tasted its fruit—the fruit of a land far beyond his own.
This is a harsh and rugged world we live in, and one inhabited by harsh and rugged people. The Bible exaggerates nothing when it says there are none who are righteous, none who understand, none who seek after God. It claims only what is most patently obvious when it insists that all have turned aside, that all have become worthless, that all do what is evil when judged by the standards of the God who created us. Venom, curses, bitterness, ruin, misery, defiance—these are the natural deeds of the natural man. These are the deeds we see around us every day, the deeds we ourselves are inclined to perform every day.
Amidst all the depravity some rightly ask—does heaven really exist? Is there actually a place marked by rest and peace, by joy and bliss, by care and love? Could there be a place that is so very different from our own? Could there be a place where we can experience the things we hope for, the things we long for, the things we were most truly created for?
There is such a place, and I can attest that it exists. I can attest that this place of perfection exists in the same way that boy can attest that a place of oranges exists. For, like him, I have tasted of its fruits. I have received forgiveness for egregious offenses against God and man alike and have known this is the fruit of another world, and certainly not this one. I have been loved by people who should by rights be my enemies, and have known this has the flavor of a place far beyond this one. I have enjoyed the truest and deepest fellowship with people who are unlike me in almost every way, yet are as close as brothers, as dear as sisters. I have seen the most hardened of men become the most gentle, the most cruel of women become kind, the most wayward of children follow their Father. This all has the savor of a place that must be entirely unlike this one.
Lewis tells us that if we have a desire that cannot be satisfied by this world, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another one. And, much the same, if we experience joys that cannot be attributable to a world like this one, the most probable explanation is that they must come from another. For as oranges do not grow in the Canadian prairies, love and peace and forgiveness do not naturally grow in the hearts of men. Neither do kindness, gentleness, or submission to God. Whether we find sweet oranges on the prairies or true love among human beings, we know they must have originated elsewhere, they must have been brought to this place where they so clearly do not belong.
I have tasted the fruit of a distant land and have within me a growing longing to taste it again, to taste it all the more, to leave this land and settle in that place of such delights, of such wonder. For though I do not know exactly where that place is, and though I cannot yet reach it, I see undeniable evidence that it exists. As that young boy received a taste of foreign lands, I have received a taste of heaven, a taste of that place where all transgressions have been forgiven and all relationships restored, where all bitterness has been replaced by sweetness, defiance by glad submission, misery by the truest joy.
Inspired by Charles Ebert Orr.