For months now, we circled August on the calendar in great anticipation. For that month signified when we would meet our new son. At times, it seemed like we wished the year away. At times, August seemed so far away. And yet, here we are. My wife is feeding him now. I can see him. Hear him. His whimpers and cries now ring in my ear, and not in my imagination. I have held him close to my chest and stared at him. Is this really happening? Am I really a dad? Or am I dreaming? Until I see Mr. DiCaprio or a top that never stops spinning, I’m assuming this is all real.
While we awaited his arrival, Amanda and I would often talk to each other about what he would look like. We wondered whose eyes or nose he would have. Would he have blonde or dark hair? How much would he weigh? How long? When he was born, all those questions faded in the reality of his presence. We no longer wonder. We know. The fact that he is here makes our previous questions less important. And while those questions faded, new ones surfaced quickly. Legos were one of my favorite childhood toys (and they remain a favorite of mine to this day). Half the fun is building the set. The bigger and more complex, the better. One thing I never remember doing was deviating from the instructions. I wanted to build exactly what was on the box. I am structured. I need structure. But I wonder about Callen. Will he need structure like me? Or will he be more creative? How can I nurture that creativity while at the same time helping him understand that structures and boundaries are necessary for creativity to flow? New questions, it seems, surface with new realities. And I am sure this cycle will continue until I die…and even after.
There were fears too. Through shot through with excitement, fear lingered in the background. I have a poor track record when it comes to seeing blood. I certainly do not have the stomach for the medical field. Hence my sterile, blood-free accounting job (although, I did audit a blood bank once…frozen blood isn’t so gross). Needless to say, fear filled my heart when I thought about the delivery. I just knew I’d be that dad slumped over in the corner, passed out with drool running down my chin. Every man worth his salt ought to fear being that guy (thankfully, I passed with flying colors). While I feared witnessing the delivery, Amanda feared doing the delivery. As a daughter of Eve, she bears an ancient curse. And fear always goes hand in hand with a curse. While it may sound silly, I even feared handling him. Sometimes I feel awkward hold babies. Would I feel that way holding my son? The question lingered in my mind. A myriad of other fears also ran through our minds, ranging from the silly to the serious.
Frankly, the preparations were overwhelming. At one baby store near our house, there was one wall at least 5-6 feet wide and 20 feet tall filled with nothing but pacifiers. I think we just stared at the wall for a few moments, unsure if the plethora of choices benefited or harmed our decision-making ability (don’t even get my started on the Safety section). The amount of stuff a baby “needs” borders on the ridiculous. And while that is true, we still needed to prepare. To not prepare would signify stupidity or negligence, or both. New realities, it seems, require new and different resources. Before Callen, I had no need of diapers or a special trash can to dispose of them. I generally know the dangers of sticking a fork into the electrical outlet. This made plug covers fairly useless for me. But all that changed early on a Tuesday morning. A new reality dawned, demanding new resources.
Sometimes, when I think about heaven, I find it utterly impossible. Is it really true that the God of the cosmos redeemed me and made a way for this former rebel to dwell in ever-increasing joy in His presence? The answer, of course, is yes. By Jesus, and only by Jesus, am I able to approach the throne. By Jesus alone will I find final salvation and enter into that infinite happy kingdom. And when I think back over the months before Callen’s arrival, and then compare that to how I anticipate this coming kingdom, I know that I fail to daily long for my true home as I daily longed for my son to arrive.
Why do I sometimes lack that zealous anticipation of heaven? Could it be that I forgot on those days that the Kingdom is near? Do I really believe it? I really believed my wife was pregnant. I saw the stick. I heard the heartbeat in utero. I saw him kicking and moving in the ultrasound. The evidence overwhelmingly pointed to pregnancy. And when it comes to heaven, again the evidence overwhelms me, but I still find myself struggling to believe. The battle of faith rages. The enemy seeks to supplant and suppress. But I have entrusted myself to One who is faithful. I shall not have my faith sifted from me. I will endure. He has promised me this much. And He never breaks His promises.
I have questions for God. From my perspective, some thing I see just don’t make any sense. Like the prophet Habakkuk, I cry out, “How long, O Lord?” I’m sure you have questions as well. Yet, I wonder how many of our questions will gloriously vanish in the revealing light of His presence. It’s popular to think that when we get to heaven, all our questions will get answered; that we will pull out our long lists and Jesus will answer them all. But I can’t help but wonder that’s not quite how the answers will come. Yes, I think they will come, but not as we expect them. We will know, because we will be with him. Our questions will quickly fade as we bask in the light of His glorious and all-encompassing presence. But while the old earthly questions fade, I have a feeling that new ones will take their place. For to ask questions is to declare dependency. It is an admission of limited knowledge and understanding. If we knew all, we would not question. And we would not be dependent. And I do not think our dependent nature will end in heaven. In fact, I know it will not end. So while I have questions that seem unanswerable, I can rest in the promise that answers to my questions exist and I can even wonder what new questions will come when the old have faded. If you’re struggling to long for heaven, just ponder that thought. Your longing for heaven will not delay. I can already feel mine growing.
There are many things about heaven I can’t quite wrap my mind around (obviously). But that God will banish fear astounds me. I can’t imagine stepping into the presence of God, who is holy, holy, holy, and not feeling one tinge of fear. And yet, that is the truth. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love” (1 John 4:8). Because of Jesus, our great high priest (Hebrews 4:14-16), I need not fear in the presence of the One whose eyes cannot look upon evil. For a righteousness not my own purged me and made me clean. In Jesus, I have no fear of judgement or wrath. And that lack of fear will extend into every part of my existence. If my biggest fear disappeared because of Jesus, I am assured the smaller ones will as well. I cannot comprehend living fully in this reality. And I cannot wait for it.
Does heaven make me live different? That’s probably a question we all ought to ask ourselves. When we least expect it, heaven will come. Do we live like it? Do we make preparations for heaven? Do we walk in wisdom or folly? Do we store up treasures here on earth or in heaven? Too many days, I fear we live as if heaven isn’t coming. We cease preparing. We focus on the temporal stuff that will burn like chaff when heaven comes. Why do we so often live as if this earth is home when heaven is on the cusp of revelation? We lack faith. We do not remember. Our anticipation wains and withers. What pitiful creatures are we! But there is hope. There is grace to live different, to make preparations, to long for the coming of our King and his infinite happy kingdom. It is only by his power that we believed in the first place. He will not forsake us. He will sustain us as we fight for faith to live differently (Philippians 2:12-13).
Come quickly, Lord Jesus.