Some people are skilled forward-lookers. They are inclined to eagerly anticipate things yet to be realized – places, events, conversations, etc. They can create pictures in their minds of what places will be like – the sights, smells and sounds – and what they will feel there even though they have no actual experience on which to base these thoughts. These are the people who can’t sleep a wink before going to an amusement park or on a camping trip because their mind is bursting with vivid thoughts of what will be.
There are others of us who are better “backward lookers.” We’re the nostalgic types who remember only the good (in great detail), and who often wish to experience those events and places once again. Our minds race back to past circumstances and feelings at the sound of a song, the scent of the grass or the feel of a cool fall breeze. We are not as disposed to conjuring up what the future will be like, but are pros at reconstructing entire memories as though we were watching them on a television screen.
I’m sitting in an Air Force hotel room at Vandenberg Air Force Base as I write this. From here, it’s about a four-and-a-half-hour drive to get “home” – Tracy, California. That dusty, stinky little town I couldn’t wait to leave when I was a teenager. I hadn’t given any thought to visiting when I first planned this trip because of the tight schedule; but because of a delay in the rocket launch, I find myself with just enough time to make a mad dash up there to fulfill some nostalgic desires and wet a line in my old fishing hole.
In the midst of my contemplations of fishing Tom Paine Slough and experiencing the sights, sound and smells that represent some of the most formative years of my life, I was struck with conviction about how much desire I have to go “home” even for a few hours compared with my desire for my heavenly, eternal home. There are times I long to be with Jesus and free from this body of death and sin, but not as often as there should be. I too often do not, as Paul admonishes us to do in Colossians, set my mind on things above. I need so much to learn to look forward to a place I’ve never been, and try, like the people I described in the first paragraph, to envision in vivid detail a place I know so little about.
Maybe, just maybe, we are told so little about what heaven is like because it’s not about the place, it’s about a person – Jesus Christ. I’ve never seen Him either, but I have met Him and have gotten to know Him over the past 19 years. I suppose if I knew Him even better, I would find my inclination to dwell on life in His presence would permeate my mind, pushing out thoughts of past places and things that served their purposes and are best left where they are.
All this has made me think about, and re-read, my first blog post, Theology of the Past. The bottom line is that dwelling too much on the past or the future (unless that desired future state is in heaven with Jesus) can be harmful to our focus on what really matters – our relationships with Jesus Christ, our families and our current friends. May we all learn to long to be in the presence of the Lord and say (and mean!) every day, “Even so, come Lord Jesus.”