On Vacations, Heaven and Saying Goodbye…

I am on vacation this week.

This picture was taken Sunday in Guatemala.
Today I am in travel recovery mode, sitting on my couch, bundled up in sweats with two pairs of socks.

I got home from the airport in the wee hours of this morning.
Going from sunshine, breezes and 70 gorgeous degrees yesterday in Guatemala City to 32 frigid degrees with high winds here at home. And snow in the forecast for the weekend.

What a contrast!

I looked forward to this trip for months.
I x-ed boxes on a calendar, literally counting the days.
I did my best to save money to cover all the expenses.
And I made plans to get there, stay there and have a great time while I was there.

Not because of the pretty weather – that was just an added bonus.
As was the gorgeous scenery.
They were awesome.
But the truly great thing about this trip was the people.
And going deeper in relationship.
Laughing until we cried.
Sharing experiences.
Honing our communication skills.
As well as talking about future plans, hopes, dreams and current life circumstances.

Unfortunately, that part of my vacation is over.
Which makes me sad.
I have temporarily left those friends behind.
But that place and those friends will still be there, Lord willing, when I return again in July.

So today I will start a new countdown calendar, looking forward to that trip as well.

But all of this makes me think of another destination.
Not a vacation – but my eternal home.

I wish I would anticipate it as much as I did this vacation.
But it is hard.

Because Guatemala is becoming part of the known in my life.
I have been there before.
These are friends that I am visiting.
People that I can stay connected with via technology.
Even when I can’t hang out with them, we can still stay in touch.
And the sights of Guatemala are tangible.
They are things I can remember because I have experienced them.

But Heaven is way more difficult to wrap my head around.
It is so very unknown.
The Bible gives us peeks into it.
But it is hard to comprehend.

And because of that, I forget to anticipate it.
I forget to live with it in mind.
And I forget that it is far more real than any so-called reality here on earth.

Here is the thing:
I don’t have to understand everything about heaven to know that it is going to be amazing.
Completely and utterly good.
I know this because I know the One who is preparing a place for me.
He is the One who knows me best – and loves me anyway.
But He is also the One who created all the things that take my breath away in this world.

Stunning rainbows
Baby giggles
Majestic mountains
And starry night skies.

Powerful waterfalls
Crashing thunder
The tight hug of a dear friend.
Moose.  And chocolate mousse.

Crashing ocean waves
And the raindrops that chase other down my window pane.
Laughing with friends until tears run down my face.

ALL of these were His idea.
And all of them give me a glimpse into how creative He is.
But only a glimpse – because all of these wonders, as amazing as they are, have been tainted by sin.

I have never seen a perfect rainbow.
Heard an untainted laugh.
Seen an unpolluted world.

But the place He is preparing for me – for us — is perfect.
And all that is wonderful.
And right.

Not only that, the place He is preparing is already the home of people I love.
Those who have died in Christ before me.
And the heroes of the faith that I have studied for so long.

I can’t wait to talk to David about what it was like to face Goliath.
And to chat with Peter about walking on water.
To sit down with Ruth and talk about what it was like to be a foreigner living in Bethlehem.
And to hear Joseph’s tales of raising Jesus from baby to boy to man.

When I remember these things – the splendor of heaven, the fact that God is preparing a place especially for ME and the heroes who have gone before, I get very excited.
As the hymn says, “the things of earth grow strangely dim” as I allow heaven to eclipse my thoughts.
And the trials of this life fade into small, inconsequential things.

Trials like ending my vacation.
Coming home to snow.
And the responsibilities that define my “real” life.

Saying goodbye once more to dear friends.
And jumping back into the day-to-day.
The tiny inconveniences of life.

But when I keep heaven firmly on my mind, even the bigger trials become smaller.
The grieving of more permanent losses, like funerals.
The loss of health.
Or the loss of relationship with someone I love.

Even those heartbreaking things become much smaller, much more bearable, when I remember the eternal Truth of heaven.

Saying goodbye in the long term – or short – is not as hard.
Because either way, the goodbye for those of us who are Christ followers is temporary.
Dealing with loss, frustrations, my own sin and the sin of others becomes less difficult when I remember that those things are also temporary.

God is preparing a place for me, for you, for us – if you know Jesus as your Savior.
And because of that, the trials will be over sooner rather than later.
And we will have all of eternity to laugh, to talk, to love.

But even more than that, the trials of life become even tinier when I remember that I will be spending forever with my dearest friend, the God of the Universe who calls me His child.
He is The Light that makes this all “strangely dim”.

And I will spend all of eternity with Him.

I don’t know most the details of heaven.
Or the new earth He will create.
I don’t even understand all of the glimpses He gave us in His Word.

And I don’t know how many days I have between now and then.
I am solidly stuck between the now and the not yet.
So I can’t make a countdown calendar.
I can’t even begin to imagine what life will truly look like when real life begins.

But I can live with heaven in my thoughts.
Actively choosing to keep my eyes fixed on the unseen.
Which then keeps all of this life in perspective.

It is how I had the grace to say goodbye yesterday.
And how I have the strength to jump back into my life with all its responsibilities today.
And again tomorrow.
And the day after that.
And all the ones after that.
Until He calls me home to Himself.

Because heaven is real.
He is preparing a good place for us.
The goodbyes are temporary.
And this life is merely a swiftly passing shadow when I view it in light of eternity.

May that always be my perspective – and yours as well.

And may we have the grace to live fully, love boldly and celebrate joyfully because of it.

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