My thoughts these days turn often to heaven. In those moments when I hover between asleep and awake, in those moments when I bow my head to pray, in those moments when I lift my voice to sing, my mind turns often to that place and to its people. My father made the journey there not too long ago and my son trailed close behind him. The two key men in my life—the one in whose footsteps I followed and the one who was following in mine—have both preceded me and both await me. Never have I had such longing to be there, for never have I been able to envision a welcome from those who are so familiar, so beloved, so sorely missed.
The Bible has a lot to say about heaven and much of it is presented in language that demands analysis and meditation, language that points us to the literal by way of the evocative. Heaven has gates of pearl and streets of gold, we are told. It has walls of jasper and waters of crystal. It is in the shape of a cube, each of its walls adorned with precious jewels. It is bright, but without sun or moon, for God himself is its light. There is a mystery to heaven. It must be so much better than we can imagine, so far beyond our comprehension, that only poetic representations can begin do it justice. And even if these images do not let us perfectly picture it in our minds, they most certainly make us long for it in our hearts.
But there is far less mystery and far more familiarity to the most precious of its descriptions: home. For each of us, the Father has reserved a room in his home, says Jesus, and he himself has gone to prepare it. To leave behind the body is to be at home with the Lord, assures the Apostle. And so his longing and ours is to be away from this fragile tent and to be safely delivered to the great home that has been so carefully planned by the mind of God, so carefully constructed by the hand of God. What comfort there is in knowing that when we come to the end of our lives, we do not depart into the ether or disappear into the void, but simply go home.
We all know what it is to be home. Home is the place of safety, the place of security, the place of familiarity. When we have ventured far, we long to return home, for we know we always leave behind a part of our very selves. No matter how joyful a vacation, now matter how wonderful a journey, home always draws us, it always beckons us to return. It is at home that we are always welcome, at home that we love to celebrate, at home that we are most authentically ourselves. Nowhere offers more comfort, nowhere offers more joy, more peace, more love, than home.
And right now I am sick for home. Though at this very moment I’m within the walls of my house, I know this is truly no more than a sojourner’s shelter, a spot to rest briefly along the way. For I myself am no more than a pilgrim making a long journey through the wilderness to that glorious Promised Land, that perfect eternal habitation. Even as I am here, I long to be there. I long to arrive at the banks of the Jordan, to safely cross over, to reach that peaceful shore, to enter the very gates of the City. There is less here to hold me back than ever before, more there to call me onward, to call me homeward, to call me to that place I long to be.
I’m confident that, despite my longing, to be here is more needful than to be there, at least for the moment. God has people for me to love, purposes for me to fulfill, burdens for me to bear. I will continue to prepare myself for the place God has prepared for me, continue to walk the narrow path he has charted for me, knowing that whether smooth or rugged, whether well-paved or potholed, this road leads me home. With each step I feel the anticipation growing, with each footfall the homesickness settling deeper within. I long to be home! When the storms of life howl around me, home! When the cares of life threaten to overwhelm me, home! When the losses of life threaten to break me, home! My eyes strain to see it, my ears to hear it, my hands to grasp it. Home, sweet home. Home where my God is. Home where my heart is. Home where my father is. Home where my son is. Simply, wonderfully, eternally home.