I just heard from a student of mine from probably twenty years ago.
He told me that as a young man, he had gotten into trouble and was sent to jail.
While there, he got into a fight with another inmate and was sent to solitary confinement.
People in solitary don’t get visitors, but they do get a Bible.
My former student can tell the story better than I can…
I was reading the BIBLE as most do while in jail and came across a story about faith. I clearly remember setting it down and saying out loud to myself “Faith–why would I care about faith? Look at where I am.” At that very moment my door popped open and the officer said I had a visitor. Caught me off guard because you don’t get visits in Solitary. So I got up went out to see who it was. Would you know it, it was your pastor coming to visit me. I will never forget how that changed my life. Thank You so much for asking him to come see me.
This is what Heaven is – words barely remembered, or sometimes spoken without thought of consequence—but simple words that set something in motion, that changed a life, that leveled the field for that one person. As we know, there is no such thing as one person; there is a relationship, a family, a neighborhood, a city, a nation or an ethnic group. No person is lost, or found, or saved, alone.
We misunderstand salvation – and Heaven – if we imagine that we get there alone. If Heaven is real–if salvation is real–we get there not by our own actions or statements of belief; we get there by joining others – by lifting a burden, breaking a spell, healing a wound, listening when no one else will and being there when no one else is and we don’t want to be either. Heaven is showing up because you know someone must and even when you have long forgotten it, 10 or 20 or 50 or a thousand years later, the ripple comes back to you, the scar is healed, the battle is over, the war is won.
It is these strands of words and interactions across time and distance that make our communities what they are–and make us who we are.
And if Heaven is anything, it is the woven web of these moments when we stepped out of our own skin and saw with eyes greater than our own and moved into that territory that is saturated by the Divine.
Maybe you only have one of these moments in your whole life. Still, it’s enough, for these are the moments that invite us into that time that the Scriptures call “eternity.”