I don’t want to go without you. I don’t think God wants to go without you either.
We all know that the world will end one day. Science tells us the physical world isn’t immortal. Christianity, too, tells us that there will be an end of time. A Parousia. An apocalypse. A second coming. Have you ever wondered when it will happen? The earliest Christians thought it was imminent. Yet, here we are, 2000 years later. Ever wonder why it’s taking longer than the original people thought? I want to suggest: Maybe God is waiting with endless patience until everyone is on board. Until everyone says yes. Until everyone is in the car.
My writing is all about unity. In this essay, I want to suggest it’s an eschatological unity. This means it’s a unity that’s headed somewhere. Like that car parked in the driveway, Mom and Dad are sitting in the car with the rest of the family buckled in, honking the horn, saying, “Come on! Or we’re leaving without you!” Except, as loving parents, they don’t leave. They honk, but they wait.
I picture a party. If you’ve ever thrown one – a big one, like a wedding – you know that timing is important. There are whole books on this. On the rules of wedding planning: don’t have it the same month as a close friend’s wedding. A close family member. Give guests several months’ notice. A “save the date” is helpful to give even more notice. Why all the rules? Does Emily Post make a killing off of our following the rules if wedding etiquette? Unlikely. Rather, this kind of planning all but guarantees that everyone you want there will be there. If certain people aren’t there, it just wouldn’t be the same.
My vision of Heaven is kind of like that. Some Christians – probably well meaning – emphasize who’s not coming. “Don’t believe this? You’re going to hell.” “Don’t do this? You’re going to hell.” “Identify like this? You’re going to hell.” They probably mean well; they have heard or learned some things that offend God, and their love of God makes them want to share the wisdom. They believe they are called to share their love of God by spreading their knowledge of what is or is not offensive to him.
There are probably others who don’t mean well. There are others who like to tell certain groups they’re not invited to the party because it gives them an “out,” a distraction from their own guilt or shame, their own worry about what might keep them out. This fear prevents them from recalling that the God they believe so firmly against offending is the same God who preaches forgiveness and patience. The God who tells us we love him best by loving others.
My vision of Heaven is a party hosted by a God who created billions of people. It’s not just a party. It’s a wedding. The union is us – together with the maker of everything. And we’re all invited. And I bet God doesn’t want to imagine the party starting without even one of those children. Scripture uses the wedding metaphor for Heaven. It also says God loves each person so much that he would leave a whole flock of us to go find a single lost sheep.
I imagine God honking the horn. So how do we say “yes?” What does it mean to come out and get in the car? I believe it’s as simple as literally saying, “Yes.” I want to invite you to take a few minutes and close your eyes. Can you envision your maker – the maker of everything – calling you to the car? Can you imagine that above the noise of anyone else telling you you’re not worthy to get in the car, that there isn’t enough room, that you have missed your chance, there is a loving voice, saying “I’ll wait.” Can you hear this voice of love asking you to join in and come to the party, where you will eat and drink and dance and hug and laugh and be spoken to kindly and with the deepest of gazes? Please respond to it. Say what’s on your heart to it. The voice is not your imagination. The humming of life inside you comes from somewhere, from someone. You can speak to that someone. What will you say?
I believe he’s putting the party on hold until he can find every last one of us. I can’t imagine going without you. I don’t want to go without you. And I believe showing up doesn’t mean living a perfect, sinless life. It just means closing your eyes, trying to imagine your creator promising more, promising a new creation someday, and asking you to live life like you know it’s waiting for you. And to say “Yes. I RSVP yes. What should I wear?”