Much of what inspires me to write is found in my interactions with other people. I am amazed at the complexity of every individual person that I know. I sometimes wonder about the people I will never meet...the person I brush past in the courthouse, the cashier at the grocery store, the person driving the other way on a snowy road...what are their lives like? are they happy? I like to know what makes people tick.
For the last two years now, I have been literally inundated with a variety of opinions on religion...God...the meaning of life. While there have been many topics that I have analyzed over and over in my mind (and on this blog), there has been one that I have neglected. Heaven. I have taken for granted that there is a heaven because everyone seems to reinforce the idea without question. Whether it is hope for something better or faith that it is there because a book tells them, almost everyone I know has shared the same fundamental belief that heaven exists. I have never questioned this. Until I was faced with sentiment recently voiced by a few friends (online and 'in real life') that did not sit well with me.
The basic premise of the statement was something along the lines of being excited to see what heaven is like.
I didn't comment then and I let it sit in my brain. And then today, for some reason, I was struck with the explanation for my discomfort. Heaven isn't a finish line. This isn't a race. This isn't a set of steps you have to get through in order to get to the better place. This isn't a throwaway. This is life. This is a gift. And to blow it off as though it is insignificant 'in the grand scheme/plan,' seems somehow...I don't know...disrespectful...and wrong.
If God exists, and all of this was given as a gift, then surely there has to be something valuable in the journey. We are supposed to enjoy our families. We are supposed to love and laugh and cry. We are supposed to eat, drink, and be merry. We are supposed to stop and take a look around and just BE.
Would you accept a gift from a friend or a family member with a comment on its value or its useful life? I don't think I would. I would accept the gift, enjoy it for the time I had it, and not make value judgments at all. But I do this all the time with my emotions as I pass through this life. Why?
It's not that people intend to do this. I think we do it quite unconciously. I think we are desperate to make some sense of THIS...this life...so we have to minimize its importance in order to make it hurt less. Surely, there has got to be something better. Surely, all of this can't be for nothing. There has to be a prize at the end. And in the process of trying to achieve that prize, we are missing out on the prize of life.
It's not totally about the end. It's also about what you fit between the beginning and the end. So whenever I hear someone tell me to focus on the ultimate "prize," I am sad for them...because they are missing so much. They have it all figured out...how to cross the finish line. In their eagerness to get there they rush past all the scenery along the way. Yes, some of that scenery is scary and ugly and horrifying. But there's much more of it that is beautiful and breathtaking and lovely. I think I would rather cross the finish line last, having fully participated in the journey.
I'd like to go to heaven. And I may even be excited to see what it's like. But I'm more excited to see where my life takes me next. Heaven can wait.