For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. [2 Corinthians 5:1 (NLT)]
As the weather up north cools, our snowbird neighbors have begun returning to their southwest Florida homes. One neighbor recently arrived from Portland, Oregon, a city that ranks third in a list of cities with the most depressing winters. Their weather forecast alternates between cloudy with rain showers to partly cloudy with a 60% chance of rain and that’s not likely to improve! Their early November temperatures will range from highs in the mid-60s to lows in the mid-40s with a UV index that never gets above a 2. On the other hand, our ten-day forecast fluctuates between sunny and mostly sunny with no more than a 10% chance of rain. Temperatures will rise to the mid-80s during the day and fall to the mid-60s at night; the UV index is 6 or 7. In short, Portland is damp, gray and dreary and we’re dry, warm and sunny (and should wear sunblock). On my neighbor’s first day back in our tropical paradise, while relaxing on her lanai with a book, she happened to fall asleep. Upon waking, hearing the mockingbird’s happy song and feeling the warm gentle breeze on her face, she had a moment of confusion and forgot where she was. Feeling incredibly peaceful, relaxed and refreshed, for a moment she actually thought she’d died and gone to heaven!
I thought of her story when I Can Only Imagine was sung Sunday morning during worship service. Although we can only imagine what heaven will be like, I know it will be even better than an autumn afternoon in southwest Florida and sunblock won’t be necessary! One friend insists that heaven will have a beach, cats and music by the Gaithers while another is sure there will be dogs and great fishing. Some people insist it couldn’t be heaven without chocolate and my husband’s idea of heaven probably includes 60s music and barbecue ribs. Something, however, tells me that even our best fantasies can’t equal the splendor and glory God has in store for us.
While I’m not sure what heaven has, I know for sure what it doesn’t. There will be no pain, sorrow, tears, loss, temptation, frailty, anxiety, fear or need. There will be no broken bodies and no sad souls. Moreover, while people have been known to get bored in our southwest Florida town, that’s not likely to happen in heaven. God will have plenty of exciting and valuable things for us to do—they’re just things that we can’t even fathom while on this side of the grass. We’ll probably do the sort of things Pastor David Burns suggested in a sermon several years ago: worship without distraction, serve without exhaustion, fellowship without fear, learn without fatigue, and rest without boredom. Whether we do all that with our cats or dogs while the Gaithers sing, “There will be peace in the valley,” I can only imagine.
I can only imagine what it will be like
When I walk by your side.
I can only imagine what my eyes will see
When your face is before me.
I can only imagine.
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,
I can only imagine.
I can only imagine when that day comes
And I find myself standing in the sun.
I can only imagine when all I will do
Is forever, forever worship you.
[I Can Only Imagine (Bart Millard)]