This article is from Issue 49

Re-imagining Heaven

Turns Out It's Not Really About Halos and Clouds, After All

When I was young, I threw a rock through the window of an old car in my alley. The glass broke easily, and the hole remained for a week or so until it was closed with a black trash bag. The owner confronted me about the window (I was the kid next door and the most likely rockthrower), but I didn’t own up and I wasn’t able to fix the damage. A few months later I escaped the knowing eyes of our neighbor. My family moved across town, and my last memory of my childhood home was driving away and looking at the Buick with the missing window.

Recently, a photographer friend of mine did an art show featuring some broken items transformed. The first picture was of a bus with a shattered windshield, and the picture brought me back to that alley and my neighbor’s Buick. Looking at the picture, feelings of guilt from my past flared up for me, and then the slide changed. The new photograph was not of a bus with a brand new windshield like I expected.

Instead, the shot was of all the broken glass carefully collected, dyed and reassembled in an elaborate mosaic. The piece was beautiful, far more impressive than a replaced windshield. Someone had removed all those shards of glass in turn and envisioned a future for them all.

Escape vs. Repair
Often when we think of heaven, what comes to mind is escape. According to Medieval art and modern cartoons, “heaven” is about leaving. Heaven is about getting as far away from what we and others have broken as possible. Perhaps we think this world is too base, painful and irreparably shattered to fix, so our only hope is to leave. As such, “salvation” isn’t about a new life, a transformed character or a brilliant new experience of God. Salvation is about departure. Salvation is about “going to heaven,” being rescued from this dysfunctional world and entering a new home that is trash bag-free.

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