Somewhere inside of me is a place that hopes that heaven isn't like the pictures on my grandfather's wall in the old, mustard-colored den. The room was a restful place: a mahogany davenport against the side wall, old books, and a small black and white television in the corner. But I will never be able to fully separate the wispy light and the transparent garments of the youthful angels on the wall from that spot. Baby sheep, a twinkling staircase, and a Jesus with a halo disc around the back of his head were smattered over different size paintings on several different walls.
I would sit on the burnt orange shag carpet and wonder, Is heaven really all pastels? Will everything just glare, too clean to touch? I don't think I want to stay for all of eternity in a chalky temple that looks hard, lonely, and like an ancient Greece emptied of all its people. I'd feel guilty as a child, as heaven was supposed to be the place where there was no suffering or tears, but everything there seemed very singular and lonely to me. In my heart, I'd secretly decide that I would stay on earth where there were warm rooms with roaring fires and family and comfortable, cushy chairs thank you very much. Hopefully God would change something up with heaven by the time I got there.
As of late, these pictures in my mind of celestial beings and glory have been challenged, and I am now understanding that heaven (a word that has consistently had a gold glow around it in my head) is not simply a place with white bunnies and a pale yellow sky. The word "glory" in the ancient languages actually meant "weight" or "substantial." In glory is where the actual weight is. What is on earth is the see-through, and everything in this eternal place will be so much more potent. God is not some wispy, metaphysical thing...He is more substantial than anything in this world and quite different from the Renaissance art found in most museums. In a place where that kind of Being eternally dwells, food and fragrance and color will be so contrasting, so intense and thick.
I take comfort in these images that the Lord has started to reveal to me. I don't very much understand it yet, but it is so reassuring to know that heaven isn't simply up above the ceiling and sky but beyond. Which means that it could be in a pocket of air that I can't quite see in the corner of my room or somewhere else that I can't quite interpret (a wardrobe?). Makes me think of Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle In Time. I remember being in about the fourth grade and trying to understand the complexities of Meg's "tessering."
There are so many impressions of God in this world: the different realms of art and beauty and music and emotion are brilliantly wrapped up and entangled in everything. I see this in the way C.S. Lewis describes creation in The Magician's Nephew and Dicken's illustration of wine and twilight on the window seat in Bleak House. I'm seeing now that the devil has sought to flip our view of heaven upside down - he is clever that way, and in response, the church has cheerfully charged into acceptance of these theologically incorrect and simplistic paintings of the eternal.
David Wells has suitably captured this issue in culture today: "It is a condition we have assigned Him after having nudged him out to the periphery of our secularized life. . . . Weightlessness tells us nothing about God but everything about ourselves, about our condition, about our psychological disposition to exclude God from our reality.”