What we call “Heaven” is not the afterlife, not a gated community in the clouds for good people. Heaven is not later but now, not “up,” but in. Heaven is not elsewhere but really, radically here, here and now. “Heaven” is our sort of elegant word for the heart of God, the Divine Presence that gives rise to all existence, the essence of being that is love that throbs within every created thing. Heaven is the mystery of God dwelling within us. Heaven is the love that is the Truth of It of everything. It is the Divine Unity, the Holy One that is all. Yeah, it’s a mouthful, and a mind-bender. That’s why we shorten it to “heaven.”
Jesus calls it the Empire of God. He says this Divine Reality is all around us and within us, “at hand” and “among you.” It’s the energy of God in every thing, every moment, every process. And it’s pure love. Jesus invites us to be in harmony with that energy, to “enter into the kingdom.”
That love, that healing oneness, that life-giving grace, is present for us, available to us all the time. Even in our worst moments and our narrowest passages it is here: Love within us and we within it. God offers it to us without cost or requirement. All we have to to is be there.
Of course when we get caught up in the anxieties and sufferings of this world such a splendid heaven seems far away. But that’s exactly when Jesus says the garden is most present, the gate open widest. It’s on the cross, after all, when he says, “Today you shall be with me in paradise.”
Bring to mind your anxieties and sufferings, or those of ones you care about. Imagine God is offering God’s healing, life-giving Presence, God’s unifying grace, right in the middle of that awfulness. Not promising that after you die it’ll get better, but that there’s another reality right here. With that in mind, meditate on these words from John’s Revelation (Rev. 21.1-6). Read them over and over. Haul your pain into this blessing. Stay there and see what happens.
See, the home of God is among mortals.
God will dwell with them as their God; they will be God’s peoples,
and God will be intimately with them.
God will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.
And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.
I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.
To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.”
—May 14, 2019