Perhaps you’ve done the reunion thing. You pull into the parking lot and sit for a second (a bit of a knot in your stomach), contemplating what lies ahead. The big question is how you look–or more appropriately–how you will look compared to your former classmates. How much hair’s been lost or grayed, how much weight gained, how many wrinkles added. You think about how your career track is panning out, wondering whether Bill or Joe are making more money than you and how much they’ll try to rub that in.
Sure there’s a part of you that wants to see old friends, but you remember all too well the unbending standards for appearance and performance that defined your school days. When reunion time rolls around, from some unknown storage closet, those standards immediately inundate your heart and mind. You certainly don’t want to come up short this many years after graduation!
But this was no ordinary reunion.
Back in the late 70’s and early 80’s we were all involved in Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP). Nationally, Chi Alpha is a ministry of the Assemblies of God, but we were kind of a rogue group having lost those connections somewhere through the corridors of time.
College life certainly had its difficulties for many of us, but in retrospect that really was a special time. Not only were we able to build many meaningful relationships, God was moving in powerful ways with many lives (mine included) being dramatically changed. Transformation is often a messy process, but that doesn’t make it any less good. We spent a short but rich time together, and then, like knights on white horses, we all rode off to change the world.
Now here we were 30 years later. In spite of our well laid plans, I don’t think that anybody’s lives turned out as expected. Some traveled career paths with little resemblance to their college majors. Others experienced unexpected pain and adversity. Still others had endured long seasons of dryness. Of course, there was so much to celebrate—children, and a myriad of stories to share.
But what really stood out to me was the love! It didn’t really matter whether who (if anybody) met societal standards of financial income or physical appearance. We weren’t overly concerned about whether someone’s kids were now rocket scientists or ambassadors to foreign lands. I’m sure we all made small judgments of some sort (it’s really hard not to), but for the most part we were excited just to see and love on one another. Our short weekend together in the midst of a heat-baked summer held an almost mystical feel that can only be attributed to the manifest love of our Creator.
I can’t help but wonder sometimes what it is that makes heaven to be heaven. Seriously, is it really about big mansions and streets of gold? I don’t think so. Not only will we dwell in the very presence of God, but we’ll be totally at peace with who we are. No standards. No judgments. No criticism. Heaven will be defined by the full fruit of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross–total acceptance by our Creator and by one another.
You may have noticed that we’re not in heaven yet. How we live this life does matter. The world around us in not very accepting. Even our own judgmental thoughts must still be cast down. We don’t yet see Jesus face to face. Still, even in this broken mixed up world, we can experience little tastes of heaven. In the coming days may they be the norm and not the exception!