Friday, June 29, 2012

Heaven in a Bowl of Jello

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Ever wonder what heaven will be like?

There seems to be a vast array of opinions out there.   Even with what we are told of heaven in Scripture, it is hard to imagine with our finite minds what it actually is going to be like.  Was John literal when he said that the streets were paved in gold, or did it just look like that?  What about this mansion thing?  Will it be streets of castles, or will it look remarkably similar to Whittington Creek subdivision?  What will heaven really be like?

I wanted a horse when I was a little girl more than I wanted anything.  I even had a little booklet I put together when I was 7 with pages outlining what all a horse needed and how much it all cost and what I could do to raise money so I could have one (because even at that age I was extremely type-A and had to plan out everything).  I remember my parents telling me that maybe God would give me a horse in heaven.  I think they were trying to gently urge me to give up my dream of owning a horse in this lifetime, because they knew it wouldn't happen.  Heaven at that point seemed like it was a great big Santa's Land, where earthly dreams came true once you got there.

I remember sharing with a Sunday School teacher that maybe I would have a horse in heaven and she totally shot me down and said absolutely not, that there are no horses in heaven, it's just Jesus and us singing to him.  (Side note:  What is it about little old Baptist ladies that makes them such killjoys?)  Anyways, I remember when she told me that how I felt like I'd been punched in the stomach.  Was God not good?  Was He so about rules and decorum that He would deny me my dream?  I told the incident to my mom, who told me that of course there are animals in heaven.  She told me where it says that Jesus will come back to get us and He will be riding a white horse, and then she said if He didn't give me one of my own, maybe He would let me help take care of His.  Immediately, my heart was encouraged and my spirits lifted.  There would at least be one horse in heaven, and I had every confidence that God would recognize my desire and fulfill it, one way or the other.

I used to get sick a lot as a kid.  As in, I had scarlet fever no less than 7 times before first grade.  Every time I got sick my mom would make me cherry jello.  She always would make it in this white dish that she had, and she would let me check to see if it was ready.  There were fewer things as a child that gave me more joy than poking the jello and watching it bounce right back up again.  I loved that feeling! (Perhaps that speaks to the fact that I grew up in a small town and there wasn't much going on, considering jamming my finger in jello was one of the highlights of my childhood?).

Every time I would test that jello with my finger I would wonder what it would be like to have a trampoline made of jello.  How cool would that be?  You could bounce on it all you wanted, and then eat it!  I was smart enough to know that it wouldn't actually be possible to have a trampoline made of jello, so I added it to my "maybe in heaven I'll have one" list.  To be fair, it was the only thing on my list.  I loved the idea of some day seeing the impossible made possible in a place where all will be as it should be.

I shared my jello trampoline story with a friend in college who immediately scoffed at my idea and berated me for being so spiritually immature as to actually think that's what heaven was for.  Of course, by that point, I didn't really expect to die and see a crew of angels in hardhats installing my jello trampoline out behind my mansion.  But I defended my idea; not because I thought it plausible, but because, my goodness, if you can't dream of having a jello trampoline in heaven, where can you?  I don't believe that Jesus is a fairy godmother who exists to wave his wand around and give us fancy dresses and glass slippers.  But even at that point in life I had found out that my faith in God required a certain bit of audacity of faith.  And what I mean by that is that sometimes, you have to throw the wildest, craziest hopes at Jesus--you believe in that jello trampoline; you believe in pregnancy even after years of fruitless trying; you believe in healing even when doctors tell you that the person you love is going to die, and soon; you believe that Jesus is abundantly and outlandishly good, even when life is throwing crap at you from every angle.

There is something to be said for reality and practicality.  They have places in our lives.  But so do jello trampolines, and dreams of riding on a horse in heaven, given to you by the lover of your soul.  The skeptics may laugh.  But they'll still get invited over to my jello trampoline party.


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