Shane Hayes - Picturing Paradise
Shane Hayes - Writer - Speaker
Picturing Paradise
A Reflection by Shane Hayes
Belief in the literal truth of Easter should transfigure a Christian’s view of death.  Yet we still tend to see it as the tragic end of life, and little more.  Let’s be ruthlessly honest: Death is grim, awful, and heart-wrenching for saint as well as skeptic.  But with conscious effort we can perceive the rays of light that shine around it. 
Yes, conscious effort is required.  Our physical eyes would make atheists of us all. The eyes of faith must peer through the darkness, squint and strain, to penetrate the gloom.  To convince us of “things not seen.”  (Heb. 11:1)
“You can’t take it with you” emphasizes what we must leave behind.  Not just money; also family, precious friends, the one you love.  But there’s another side to dying:  What awaits us! You can’t get it till you go. 
Get what? our doubting heart asks.  Faith replies: Glory.  And what is that?  Oh, many things.  Beatitude (perfect joy).  Union with God.  Friendship with Christ.  Not for a day, or a year, or an eon… but till the end of time – and infinitely beyond the end of time.  Those are the pinnacles of glory. 
But I believe there’s a personal aspect to heaven.  Just as the experience of earthly life is not the same for any two of us, I think God will individualize our afterlife too.  Jesus said, “Whatever things you desire, when you pray, believe that you will receive them, and you shall have them.”  (Mk. 11:24)  That is a magnificent promise.  But he doesn’t say when we shall have them.  Clearly it’s not always on earth.  If we believe the promise, he must have meant that many of our prayers will be answered not here but in heaven. 
So believe you will receive there what the omnipotent God promised to give you: a dazzling answer to every faith-filled but unanswered prayer.  And every unanswered question.  Imagine what will that be like for you.  The fulfillment of your most poignant desires.  The dreams that just wouldn’t come true.  Romantic longings, deeply felt but never gratified.  Aspirations and ambitions, ardently pursued, desperately grasped at, but always out of reach. 
For me it will be: Reunion with departed parents, soul mates, and friends, all healed and rejuvenated.  A new, young, perfected, and beautiful body to replace my old worn unsightly one.  (Phil. 3:21)  The brilliant mind I always envied.  The incandescent personality, wit, and social fluency I so admired but wasn’t blessed with.  A dwelling place like Capri in August: warm, exotic, and wonderful.  The readers I spent my life writing for but never found. 
All this, and the divinely appointed More we can’t even imagine.  “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard… the things which God hath prepared for those that love him.”  (1 Cor. 2:9)  Yet Paul tells us to try imagining: “Seek the things that are above…  Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”  (Col. 3:1-2)  Our dread of death diminishes, the more concretely we envision what lies beyond it.  We must not be timid, but train ourselves to expect what Christ promised on the cross… a Paradise.  With Him.  You can’t get it till you go. 
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