I’m sitting in an Olive Garden in Bloomington, IL. My thoughts of what heaven will be like do not much exceed this. It is the feeling of being in an outdoor café in Tuscany – the bustle of life going on all around, but personally having nothing to do but drink in the aroma of fresh coffee with cream and sugar. Light jazz, Frank and Tony, mixed with an occasional Italian number combine to form a sense of weightlessness – peace. The low lights and warm fragrance of fresh bread, Roma tomatoes and garlic make me feel that I could linger on indefinitely and have the stress and cares of the real world melt away. Fat bottles of wine reflect the light in amber and dark red adding to the ambience. I want to pick up the large novel sitting next to me and escape fully into this world – a world without the hassles and heartache of the real one.
This heaven appeals to me. Perhaps I would be able to eat without adding to my waistline – Maybe I really could linger indefinitely without the intruding thoughts of the pains this life bears. I want to forget – to fade away into this heaven – to drown my hurt in the warm coffee I’m sipping. This is what the world offers – a dulling of the senses to life’s pain – attempting to escape into life’s pleasures. Shouldn’t my sense of heaven exceed this?
I know the answer, of course. Christianity is not about escaping the groanings of life by dulling the pain with atmosphere. Heaven is not about having my fill of all I have wanted in this life. I know, of course, the draw of heaven is Christ – and surely He is more than enough – far superior to a night at the Olive Garden. But why does it not feel all that different? I try to extract every ounce of pleasure from the Marsala Chicken – from the cup of coffee, but fail to obtain a commensurate amount of pleasure from Christ. Why is that??
Jeremiah 2:12-13 “Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the Lord, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.”