When I was a child, The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton, was my favorite book. In it, a country cottage endures trials (urban sprawl), only to be transported, in the end, to her former life in the paradise of the countryside.
The problem with my girlhood love of this book is that it planted seeds of dissatisfaction with my reality. I have never lived in the country, and the book casts a dirty film over city life. In it, rural life is the definition of perfection. How often I’ve wanted to be lifted out of the big city and plopped down on a green hillside far away, surrounded by apple blossoms and birdsong! (Please don’t read this book to your children unless you plan on moving to the country! 🙂 )
In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis explains that the very fact we have a desire means it has a fulfillment. We get hungry because there is such a thing as food. We crave rest because there is such a thing as sleep. We chase perfection because there is such a thing as heaven.
How do you chase heaven? For me, heaven is the quiet meadow, the country cottage tucked so far back in nature that road noise is nonexistent. It is the sky aglitter with stars, the open window beside my bed because there is no threat of crime, and butterflies floating over flowers.
This is a beautiful dream I often try to create on vacations. During one of my recent attempts to find heaven on earth, I spent the night lying awake and scared in a tent! My husband had gotten food poisoning from the local barbecue restaurant, where we’d stopped for lunch, and he’d driven himself home around midnight. My four-year-old niece cried out from the tent beside mine because she’d had a bad dream. I snuggled her into my tent, zipped us up, and prayed the coyotes wouldn’t attack. Their howls overlaid the purr of the all-too-nearby highway with a threatening cadence. Our attempts at sleeping ended in the groggy light of dawn, as my older niece lamented that crows don’t have snooze buttons! Funny memories? Yes! Utopia? Surely not!
I have to be careful of my propensity to chase after perfection. When life gets hard, I start dreaming of a happy escape. Sometimes, it feels so real. Bliss blows through me as I imagine the garden I’d create round the little porch of my country cottage. I imagine how serene a jog could be down a country lane. My mind’s eye watches rainstorms roll in, or perhaps a sunset, as I sit next to my sons, who are happily fishing in the little pond. A frog jumps in. The crickets sing.
Yes, I have to be alert. I have to check myself. Remember, Carol, even in the country there are emergencies, deaths, long task lists, arguments, negative emotions, mosquitoes . . . . I have to remind myself that heaven can be glimpsed on this earth, but it cannot be caught.
How do you chase heaven? If only ____________, I’d be fulfilled. If only I had ____________, life would be perfect. I think it is an important question to ask. This self-awareness can help us get back to living well now. When the longing for unbridled bliss blows through me, I can quiet my mind with: Yes. That is how it will be in heaven. Then, I can focus on thanking God for every wonderful blessing He bestows on me in this world, while looking for perfection only in the next.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NIV)