Our Easter Sunday worship was really lovely. The place was packed, the whole service was one of victorious thanksgiving. The singing, the reading, the responses, the messages were all glorious. It felt like a small slice of heaven. Granted, a few areas could have been improved in the details. It was glorious, but it wasn’t perfect.
Which got me wondering. I came home to my sick husband and asked: do you think we’ll be perfect in heaven? I know that we will be perfectly sinless, and I know that we will be perfect in the sense of complete and whole.
If, however, we are perfect, is there a place for growth? In my puny mind perfect = static. Isn’t that a common fear about heaven, that it will be boring? The wise man replied, “How are you now? You will be like you are, but without sin.” We won’t know everything – God is the one who is omniscient – so wouldn’t it make sense that our knowledge will grow? What about our moral attributes: will our love grow, our patience grow?
I’ve been having a stimulating conversation with my gracious online friend Deb about the movie Ostrov (The Island). The 2007 movie chronicles the life of an eccentric Russian man, Father Anatoli, with a horrible secret in his past, who nonetheless has a solitary ministry to hurting, wounded people. Curt and I watched it (for free!) on Netflix Instant Watch; I gave some feedback to Deb. As an Orthodox Christian she sees some things differently than me. In the back and forth of our exchange I asked can humility and joy co-exist? I’ve been thinking about Philippians 2 and Hebrews 12 and the interaction of humility and joy.
My husband, Curt, is still wiped out. The medicine for pneumonia/sinus infection may be doing something but we have not seen improvement yet. I am simultaneously praying in faith that he gets better and beginning to brace myself for a big disappointment. I’m preparing for the trip and preparing to stay home.
This is the same issue (to a much smaller degree for us) that meets anyone who is diagnosed with a terminal disease. There is praying in faith for healing, and acceptance in faith of impending death. Does one preclude the other?
Praying hard, Carol. Hang in there.
And as to your first “just wondering” – do I have a book for you! 🙂 You should definitely add “Heaven” by Randy Alcorn to your endless to-read list. One of the best books I’ve ever read. I just finished reading the kids’ version aloud to my kids, and it was a wonderful experience. You can rest assured that heaven won’t be boring. Some of the questions he addresses: will we know everything in heaven? will we learn in heaven? will we create in heaven? Good stuff.
I agree w/ you reading Heaven by Alcorn. I’m not one of those people who needs things/life/situations to fit neatly into a box (one of my favorite sayings is, “think outside the box”). Those things I can’t wrap my brain around, I “let go and let God.” Re: joy and humility co-existing, why not? Real joy is based on it being 1) a gift from God and 2) not dependent on anything earthly.Curt, oh my goodness. I pray for God’s gracious Spirit, the Great Physician, to bring healing in His time. I pray for complete dependence on Him for you in this waiting game. God is faithful. Love you two!
Wondering usually gets me in trouble 🙂
Back later with more thoughts, but I am praying for Curt.
FYI, most of the respiratory illness DH has seen this season has taken twice as long for recovery, even with meds…. surely he doesnt have fluid in his lungs? as in, has he had a chest xray.
No, I’m not a doctor 😦
Some random thoughts…Regarding the question of whether perfection puts an end to growth….I think of the example of Jesus, who continued to grow in wisdom and knowledge as a young man, though He was sinless. Obviously, then, sinlessness and growth/maturity are not mutually exclusive. In addition, because we are creatures, our knowledge of God will never be exhaustive, therefore can always be growing.”Can humility and joy co-exist?”Yes. That was easy!Seriously, though, we can look again at the life of Christ. He is obviously the ultimate example of humility and joy co-existing. I’m not sure exactly what you are getting at in your question, however. Maybe we may need to define our terms. How do you define humility and joy?I’ll take a stab at it:”Humility”–laying aside your own rights, comfort, desires, etc. in the service of others. Viewing the privileges, blessings, and gifts of God with gratitude rather than taking them for granted. In the Bible, being humble is often associated with “uncovering” one’s self (sometimes literally and sometimes metaphorically)…taking off robes of glory and putting on sackcloth and ashes. Getting up from the privileged spot at the host’s table and moving down a few seats. Humility may well (and often does) involve confession of our sins, but it isn’t that exclusively, as the life of Jesus demonstrates. As Debbi said, “I wonder if part of the problem is that we in the West mix up the emotions of humility and guilt?” I think that question is worth exploring.”Joy”–Gladness in God and His works; faith that He is good and will work all things together for the good for those who love Him. Joy in the Bible is often associated with singing, shouting, & feasting. Don’t know that this helps…just thinking “out loud!”And for your last question regarding praying despite the expectation of a certain outcome…Our first responsibility is to do what God commands, even if we don’t understand it. He invites us–even commands us–to make our requests known to Him. He wants us to be like the persistent widow who would NOT let the judge go to sleep until he addressed her concerns! So yes, we pray. And we pray in faith; faith that He hears our prayers; faith that He chooses to use the prayers of His people to bring His will to pass, and faith that He will always act for our good, even when it doesn’t make sense.Yikes–didn’t mean to go on so long!
Thanks all of you, but especially Angie. You’ve reminded me of things I do know, and have been very helpful. The joy/humility wondering is a bit out of context here – it had more to do with the movie and some of my concerns with that.The struggle I’m going through on # 3 is more emotional than theological. I find myself hedging my prayers – wimping out – protecting myself in case the answer is no. On a practical note, my brother pointed out this evening that we might start exploring options for changing the timing (I doubt this is possible) or substituting another traveler (said traveler would need to have a passport).
I’m also praying for Curt. I loved Angie’s answers to your questions. Somehow the thought of heaven doesn’t provoke such philosophical thoughts for me, just longing. Oh to see His face and hear His voice and enjoy His company in the most unfettered way for eternity seems enough to me. I suppose I hesitate at the words we use to define eternity, infinity, perfection, knowledge of the holy and so on, that fall so short of the reality of it. Books on heaven don’t seem to appeal to me. I fear romantic conjecture. Though so many good folks love the book mentioned, I prefer letting scripture interpret scripture.. I just know that I long more for Him than for it.
Regarding your prayer-healing dilemma so many of us face. Faith in the sovereignty of God and submission to that lies well on both counts, whether healing or heaven, both options are good. Though the one is only temporary and other is not. David prayed his socks off for his little baby son until he died and then wiped his face and rejoiced that someday he would be with him. Now he is. Must we have “enough” faith for healing? No just faith that God can, does and is willing to heal, but sometimes chooses not to. He is good on both counts.
Oh I am praying that you and Curt will soon be in Scotland, well and breathing the air and seeing all that you have longed to see…just walking slower and taking more tea breaks.
love you! M in SC
I think Christian humility must be joyful or it’s not Christian humility. Piper speaks to this quite often. In Contending for Our All, he says that, when we are contending, one of the most potent weapons in our arsenal is joy. We must ‘out-joy’ our opponents.I’ll cast another vote for Alcorn’s Heaven. I can’t wait for my music lessons with Bach!
Roseteacup – Just a quick follow-up on the book Heaven. If it doesn’t appeal to you, I completely understand that, but I wanted you to know that Alcorn’s book is not romanctic conjecture. I’ve avoided all other books on heaven because of that very reason, but Alcorn uses hundreds of scriptures that give us a picture of what Heaven will be like. Not a perfectly clear picture, but a clearer picture than the old stereotype of being handed a harp and a halo and sitting on a cloud.