Commentary by Jack Kelley
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Cor 2:9)
We’ve all noticed differences in each other that can’t be attributed merely to genetics or environmental conditioning. Things like shape and color preference, for example. Cosmetologists and fashion experts describe these preferences in terms of the four seasons when choosing colors for make-up and clothing that will help us look our best and most attractive to others. Decorators customize our surroundings to increase our comfort at home or office by using the shapes, colors and textures we prefer. While there are many common perceptions we share, we are distinguished by our individuality.
We also come from the womb with unique traits and quirks that we display almost from birth, having had no opportunity to learn them. One’s cautious, another’s adventuresome, one enjoys solitude another prefers company. Energy levels, basic outlook, drive and ambition differ remarkably even among siblings who share both genetic and environmental factors. Remember Jimmy and Billy Carter?
When seeking a mate we prefer those who share some of our preferences, but eventually grow tired of those who are just like us. “Vive la difference,” the French say. How boring it would be if we were all the same: cookie cutter companions.
What’s The Point?
And yet when considering eternity (when they think of it at all) some Christians see us all becoming alike. They believe we’ll all be 33 years old because that was the Lord’s age when He went to Heaven. They see us all in white, with blue eyes and brown hair, sitting on a cloud with our harps, attending some endless worship service. Really!
Remember the reason most children are happier than most adults is that children spend their time gaining new skills knowledge and experience. The problem with most of us is that we grew up, the thrill of living gone because of our unchanging nature. Some of us haven’t had even a new thought in years, let alone a new experience.
Will You Grow Up?
Some people retain their child like enthusiasm by dramatically changing their lives every so often. I think of my friend Pratt who has built and sold businesses on a regular basis, and at the same time become an engineer, designer, builder, champion auto racer and ocean going sailor. He and Brenda began married life at 17 in the cab of a dump truck; the only thing they owned. In addition to building businesses he also designed and built the trailers for their trucks, their home, and his winning race cars. I mean built: from the ground up, with his own hands. Last year they bought a 50-foot catamaran and sailed it across the Atlantic. Alone.
Bud, the fellow whose death I spoke of last week was the same kind of guy. If you play racquet ball you play on a court he designed and use a variation of the racquet he invented. But he also designed and built airplane parts, golf clubs, restaurants, hotels, homes and churches. He was the first one ever to water ski barefoot, and still holds speed and distance records in that sport from his days as a pro at Cypress Gardens. His family’s construction company dredged Pearl Harbor, making it a deep water port. He was a pilot and a sailor and a builder. At his funeral he was described as having achieved more than a dozen men.
Been There, Done That
Heaven’s going to have to be pretty amazing to hold these guys’ interest. They’re the happiest guys I’ve known, having refused to grow up and settle down, and I mean that in the most positive sense. And remember: they didn’t start out just to have a lot of fun. They continually expanded the limits of their skills, knowledge and experience, creating products, jobs, and billions in economic benefit along the way. Happiness is a by-product of their life experiences, not its purpose. Are they now going to be content with the heaven I described above, white robes and harps? I think not.
Billy Graham was once asked if there would be golf courses in heaven. “If they’re necessary for our happiness,” he replied, “They’ll be there.” That’s the criteria: Whatever’s necessary for our happiness. Take a minute to imagine your eternity. Now please don’t let your imagination be limited to something like the greatest amusement park ever. Happiness is not about meaningless diversionary activity, it’s about expanding your mind with new knowledge, skills and experience. Let your mind go free to wander among the possibilities.
For example, what if our eternal environment was designed with our individuality in mind and actually mirrored our uniqueness. What if it was painted in our favorite colors using our favorite shapes, sizes and textures and what if it expanded before us like a giant kaleidoscope so that as we grew familiar with it, it grew too, always stimulating and exciting and never boring FOREVER. What if we could attempt anything we could imagine without the possibility of failure. What if we could amaze and astound ourselves with our capabilities and realize that they were gifts from the One Who created us, always there within us, and finally available because of His sacrifice of love.
I like the mountains. My wife prefers the beach. What if our eternity suited both of us so that we could experience our favorite places together at the same time? Think about that. I would be in the mountains and she would be on the beach. But we would also be together. I would see everything in my favorite shapes and colors and she would see everything in hers, but we’d both be looking at the same things.
“But wait a minute,” some say. “We’ll all be different there from the way we are here.” Maybe so, but we’ll also be the same unique person we’ve always been. We don’t get some huge lobotomy to dumb us down and keep us passively content like they did in “One Flew Over The Cookoo’s Nest.” Certainly we’ll spend lots of time worshipping God, just as we do here, giving thanks for all He’s given us. But the earthly bonds that restrain us will be released, our brains energized, and our senses sharpened, and our unique capabilities revealed, not only for worship, but for all our experiences. We’ll finally become all that we were created to be, God’s work of art: the highest example of His creative ability. Got any idea what that means? Got any idea how thankful you’ll be?
Eternity has to be enough to thrill even those who have experienced life on earth to its fullest, and not for just a day or two but forever. It has to take each of our unique preferences and interests to the max, while doing the same for everyone else and at the same time.
Like Paul said, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Cor 2:9). Even in your wildest imagination you can’t come close to describing the joy awaiting you. Remember Paul actually went there and saw it (2 Cor. 12:2-4). He should know.