Not long ago, at our church homegroup, my pastor threw out a question which I've been pondering since then. It was, "What if we are essentially good instead of bad?" For most of my life, I've been taught that we are full of sin, and bad to the bone (for lack of a more original term) and that Jesus came to save us from our evil ways.
This has been so ingrained in me that his question was met with initial resistance. "We can't possibly be born good, because how do you explain all of the horrible things in the world?" He answered that question with, "Brokenness. We are damaged, and broken, and make choices which aren't healthy because that's the world we live in. But if we are created by God, in his image, and he is perfect, why are we not good instead of bad?"
I've been thinking about this, and I don't understand how it all works. Something in me likes the idea that I'm not a worm, crawling around on the ground feeling shame and guilt, the way I once understood to be true for all of humanity. Perhaps I am actually beautiful at my core, and can make choices which lead to kindness, love and mercy instead of cruelty, competition and hatred. It's all in the slant of our perspective.
My pastor has been speaking for months now about heaven as another dimension of our world, similar to Narnia in the C.S. Lewis books. Somewhere along the line, Christians got the idea that heaven is some otherworldly place with spirits floating around worshiping 24/7. I find it hard to wrap my mind around that idea because it's so foreign to the life we are living now.
At church, we've been looking at the ideas that the first century Jewish culture were steeped in. They understood death and the afterlife as a kind of continuation of life on earth. They saw the earth as beautiful and good and that one day, it would be restored. I like the idea that what we do here matters and has eternal value. Since I haven't died yet, I have no way to know what any of this might look like, but I would like to still be myself, anchored in who I am and with some kind of body, instead of just floating around all perfect-like.
Perfection is so hard to understand, but the more I work on my inner life, and feel what healing can do for the hurts that have been done to me and that I have done to others, I begin to dream that maybe this kind of world could happen one day for everyone. I have no idea how. For now it's just a dream, but I think maybe it might be tied into the idea that God loves us as we are, and that we are not sniveling evil creatures but instead full of possibility and beauty, even in the midst of all of the bad choices that we are capable of making.
This idea fills me with hope. It draws me instantly closer to God. Coming to terms with the idea that he is not angry with me has liberated me from many of my fears and self-loathing. It has washed my perspective with soft colour instead of living in a greyed-out world. It is the language of optimism and health and hope for a future which is more cohesive than the present chaos we live in. I want to dream that one day there will be a wholeness to this world, and to who I am, and that to me is a picture of heaven which brings me joy.