Thoughts about Heaven Pt. 1: What about progress?

If you know me, then you know my mind often wanders to thoughts of the hereafter and not long after I begin to have panic attacks. This is in part due to the illogical nature of many common understandings of the life beyond this one, and in part due to the uncertainty involved in something so foreign to our minds as “eternity”. This is in no way a theological summary of belief, or even a proper study of the subject, but rather a sample of the thoughts I have been having quite recently, that I would love to someday work through and write more thoroughly on.

As I drove to Crystal Lake, windows rolled down, the wind rustling through my folder of papers placed precariously in my back seat, my mind started to wander. I was thinking about writing, specifically I was thinking about a new idea I have for a fiction novel that I will most likely be writing this year for NaNoWriMo. To summarize, it is a tragedy told in two perspectives, the grieving widows story of grief and loss, and the dead husbands unfulfilled time in paradise, due to the knowledge of his lovers strife. Anyways, these thoughts quickly lead to thoughts of the afterlife which, for me, is normally something bad. All my life I have been told that Heaven is going to be perfect. I have heard my different ideas of what this means. Some have told me that it will be a never ending worship concert, or that we will try to stand up and the glory of G-d will push us to our knees for all eternity (both of which don’t sound very perfect to me). I have been told we will all fly and have regenerative bodies.

I have been told we will do the things we love to do on earth, just perfectly. I have been told that we will have all that we could ever want. So, what slowly appears is a picture of heaven where at the blink of an eye, anything you want will be there, perfect in every way (at least in my head).This thought was what started the panic attack. See, if we could get anything we desire, with no effort, and it would be perfect then there is no progress. If everything we love to do, we do perfectly, then there is no reason to keep doing it, because we will have reached the apex. If heaven is nothing but people who are already at the ceiling of potential, I feel like life in heaven will be boring and unfulfilling.

It is similar to a recent conversation I had. Mosaic’s book club has been going through Rainn Wilson’s “Soul Pancake” recently. One of the questions was “What would you literally give your little toe for?” My first thought was “to have a musical following”. But as we discussed I realized that I would not want that. What good would it be if I gained a musical following, not because of my music or because of the effort I put out, but purely because of a magical and sadistic wish-giver. Without having any work been put in on my part, the outcome would feel cheap and not fufilling. The same can be said about this view I was dancing around with about heaven. If we are already perfect at everything we want to be perfect at, I feel like our talents and abilities will feel cheap. There are many times when practicing a song I wish I could snap my fingers and be perfect at the song being practiced, but in all reality, it is the weeks of hard work that make playing the song well so satisfying.

There was another problem I found with this viewpoint that was in my head. If I could just wish anything into existence and be given a perfect version of said item, then there would be no progress left in the world. Let’s say I want a computer. So I snap my fingers and, BAM! the most perfect computer ever sits before me. But now I know while using it, there is nothing that will ever be better than this. All of the computer programmers and inventors will never be able to live out their passion and come up with something better than this. We will hit the roof, without effort, and there is no where to go from here. But what if there is no ceiling to the power of our G-d given creativity? What if G-d made us to create, just as he creates, and that progress in all its forms is a part of this? Maybe removing the ability to progress by making everything perfect is actually counter-intuitive to the way G-d made us to work.

Then I started to think about the one book that has eased my mind about the hereafter, Love Wins. I started to think about how in the OT all the mentions of paradise involve things like pressing grapes and building and farming and growing and working. That the OT picture of paradise seems to be one where we will continue to work hard for the things we love. Where we will keep creating new and exciting wines. This is a paradise where life we know it will continue. We will just no longer have pain, suffering, strife, prejudice, stubbornness, and selfishness. That this paradise is not somewhere where everything we do is perfect and everything we have is the ultimate of its kind, but it is a place where we will have the perfect discipline and drive to accomplish all the things we wish we would in this life. Where my desires will not be weighed down by my own weaknesses. Inventors will continue to invent, musicians will continue to create, writers will write, craftsmen will craft, cooks will cook, and all will be made right. Creation will continue to create, now and in the age to come.