“Heaven on Earth is a choice you must make, not a place you must find.”
– Wayne Dyer
Eleven years ago, I was walking through an art gallery and a painting stopped me in my tracks. I looked at it – one side was filled with layers of texture and deep colors while the other side floated toward serene emptiness. In the middle, they intermingle. I felt drawn to the painting. To me, it was a depiction of the spiritual world and the physical world. I leaned in closer and read the title: Heaven and Earth.
We bought the painting and it hangs above our dining room table to this day. The question the painting asks is this: where does earth end and heaven begin?
I grew up believing that heaven is a separate place from earth – a place to strive to go to, the reward for surviving this life. I was so worried that I would miss out on it (thank you Left Behind series), that I said a few extra salvation prayers.
The painting paints another picture, though. It’s less dualistic than one or the other. They are woven together, so deeply intertwined that it’s impossible to distinguish them as “separate.”
I’m a mom of three kids – ages 8, 5, and 2. They have two favorite games that they play every. single. day. 1: Teenager (this is a game where they carry around fake cell phones and basically just walk and talk together). 2: FBI (this is a game where they have jobs as FBI agents and they set up their desks to do a lot of “office work” on homemade cardboard computers).
They can’t WAIT to grow up. They want to skip childhood and be teenagers and then adults immediately. It’s not an unnatural desire. My own childhood was the same way (just replace the cardboard computer with my homemade cardboard stop sign, and you get 7-year-old-me who couldn’t wait to grow up and fulfill my dreams of being a crossing guard).
Childhood and adulthood are similar to heaven and earth. When does childhood end and adulthood begin? Did I become an adult when I graduated college? When I got married? When I bought my first house? Had my first baby? Am I even yet an adult? I don’t know how to fold a fitted sheet. I haven’t fulfilled my crossing-guard dreams.
Maybe they’re intertwined in the same way that heaven and earth are intertwined. And I imagine that God feels similar to how I feel when my kids want to rush through their childhood.
But humans! THIS IS THE PRIME OF YOUR LIFE! Don’t miss out. Explore! Adventure! Make friends! Enjoy being who you are!
I can just imagine God creating this entire earth – filling it with volcanoes, and forests, and whales who have tongues the size of one hundred elephants, and rainbows, and glaciers, and plants with healing powers, and chameleons as small as your fingernail, and kangaroos who carry their babies in pockets, and mountains, and deserts, and on and on!
I can picture him looking at it all with such satisfaction, giddy with excitement to watch us humans discover the mystery and wonder of this world. Only to have Christians turn around and say, “we can’t wait for this life to end and heaven to begin!”
Look at the painting of your life – are the physical and metaphysical still two separate entities? Begin today to paint in areas of intermingling. Maybe that means literally painting – create something! Maybe it means relationally acknowledging the divinity, the image of God, in the people you interact with. Maybe it means enjoying the earth – go for a walk, climb a mountain, swim in the ocean. Maybe it simply means moving through the same patterns of your normal day, but with a new lens: be intentional to take note of the overlapping of heaven and earth.