July 23, 2013

Tears In Heaven & Joys On Earth

"He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away." -Revelation 21:4-

This of course is part of the Apostle John's description of the New Heaven, and the New Earth.  How often have we all thought of it when loved ones have died, or have had it quoted to us when things on this old Earth have been difficult?  It's so comforting to think that those things which cause us pain, which cause us to mourn, which cause us to cry, will be no more!

This verse has not only comforted me, but it has also intrigued me.  Now, I beg of you, don't take what I'm gonig to say here and make a systematic theology out of it, because that's not the point of this post.  Having said that, this verse has always intrigued me because I believe it to be somewhat of a paradox that in the New Heaven, and the New Earth, we will have tears that need to be wiped away!  Why is this?  Perhaps it's because we will remember all the things that drove us to our knees in supplication - sickness, death, the sinfulness of this world etc.  Maybe (and I think this is very likely) it's because we will remember our own sin, and what our great Savior has done for us by redeeming us not only from the curse of death, but our evil natures, and has brought us to the fulfillment of what is so often promised in Scripture.  Or is it possible, that we might have tears in heaven because we miss the joys we were given on Earth? I know what some of you are thinking - blasphemy!  We are so trained in our modern (and in some cases postmodern!) Christianity to think of this world as bad, and heaven as good.  This of course is true in a lot of ways.  Turn on the news and tell me that you don't long for Jesus to come back.  Go through a break-up, and convince me that you don't desire that tear-soaked pillow to be replaced by the bosom of Christ.

There is much evil in this world (and let us not forget part of that is due to the fact that we as sinners, are in this world!) but we would be foolish to forget that God has given us many joys on this Earth as well.  We can't ignore Genesis, can we?  Did not the God who created this world, declare it "good"?  The fall of cousre has destroyed much of it, but this is still our Father's world, is it not?  Has He blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ?  Absolutely, but hasn't He also given us so many "earthly" blessings as well?  I believe He has, and despite some of the scoffing I may receive for saying this, I'm actually going to miss some things on this Earth in the here and now.  Who hasn't climbed a 14er here for instance and admired the beauty of God's creation and thought, "I'm sure going to miss this!"  (I know, I know, heaven and the new Earth will be very beautiful as well, but don't miss my point here)

Much of this thought was inspired the other night when Heidi and I were walking around the park near our house with our little darling Aisley.  It was a beautiful night, and we walked towards the park, and heard music getting louder as we approached.  (Apparently there was a sweet 16 Disney themed birthday party taking place)  The music was loud, as I mentioned, but it was fun, and we walked a couple of times around the park, talking and wanting to go to Disney etc.  The last time we were going around, Heidi suggested that we take Aisley to the slide so she could play a little before we left.  Much to my shame, that wasn't something I wanted to do because we were really tired, and it was still warm and I thought we should get back.  I repented of my sin, put on my "happy heart" and we headed over.  Aisley was thrilled.  She would climb the stairs to the top, sit down, and slide down into my arms. 

Then it happened.

Heidi went over to the stroller to get a drink, Aisley climbed the stairs one last time, and she paused at the top, looked around at the other kids playing nearby, then, looking down the end of the slide at me with that smile of hers she very joyfully said, "Hi!".  Moments like that seem so simple, and way too often, I take them for granted, and don't enjoy them the way that I should, but now that moment is etched forever in my mind - that picture of my little girl at the top of the slide before she had the joy of going down.  Afterwards, I teared up, and as we were making our way back to the car, Heidi asked me what was wrong, and it took me a little bit to answer.  Why was I sad?  Why was that beautiful moment with Aisley affecting me this way?  I answered Heidi that I was said, because I knew that there would come a day, where we wouldn't see our little girl at the top of a slide anymore - for any number of reasons.  Something may happen to us, something may happen to her, and unless Jesus comes back first, death will find us all, or it may be as simple as the fact that she will grow up.  Even thinking about it now, I tear up and get emotional.  Sin has ruined the world, but we still have joys in the world.  As I said, one day, I won't see Aisley with that big smile on top of the slide, and it breaks my heart.

In heaven, I'm going to miss that joy on earth, but I'm sure I will remember it.  And when I remember it, I'll need Jesus to wipe away those tears.  For now, I will enjoy those moments and treasure them up, even if it makes me sad to think that one day those moments will be gone.  Enjoy the joys we have been blessed with here and now,  the joys on earth, and look forward to the glorious day when the Great King will wipe away the tears in heaven.