I don't usually permit myself to envision heaven. I don't allow myself to think about what it will be like, or who will be there, or what my experience might be in heaven.
It's partly because the concept of heaven, though I believe it is as real as real can be, is too vast for me to grasp in my mind. It's partly because I don't want to presume something so beautiful, so True, so perfect, can be pictured in the human mind. And it's mostly because I am completely okay with the fact that heaven is a mystery, and I don't need to know what it is like while I'm still at work here on earth.
But sometimes I suddenly have an image in my mind that is heaven. Sometimes it's a sound. And I'm not talking about going to the symphony, and hearing heavenly music, or seeing a beautiful piece of art, and feeling as if "oh, that is heaven!"
These insights are completely unexpected, unprovoked, and unusual. And it usually has nothing to do with any of man's accomplishments (works of art, music, etc.) Rather, these glimpses, when they have happened, have come to me in the middle of the night and they are intensely personal. That is, I don't see heaven on a broad scale, I only see the Lord in some way that is specifically applicable to me.
Now, I'm not claiming to be able to see heaven, or that the Lord has granted me any special visions or anything. I just mean that sometimes I think the Lord allows glimpses of eternity as a sign of His Glory. And I think that, particularly for people who are actively carrying a cross--those trying to carry it in unity with Him--these visions of His glory are such graces, such consolations in the midst of darkness.
The night before our viability ultrasound for this baby, when we were 7 weeks and 3 days along, I was in such agony thinking about the possibility that this baby would also be dead, that I would lose another child. My anxiety was through the roof. I couldn't sleep. I was tossing and turning, trying not to wake my husband, trying to make myself calm down and go to sleep. I prayed and prayed for peace, out of trust in the Lord, knowing that whatever happened the next morning, He would carry me through it. But I was exhausted with worry.
And then, I heard--not imagined, not thought in my head, I heard, "I love you mamma." And suddenly it was like I wasn't experiencing the next minute with my senses. I didn't hear, feel, or see anything. All I felt was Peace. I had heard Romeo Gerard tell me that he loved me, and in so hearing, I knew that he knew how much I love him, how much I miss him, how much I felt like I failed him, that I had done everything I could, that I could never forget him, that he knew he was my son.
Then, as suddenly as it had happened, I came back to my senses, and burst into tears. Was I crazy? Had I imagined the whole thing? Was I being superstitious? Does this kind of thing happen to ordinary people like me?
The thing is, I know it was real. I can't deny it. I might sound completely nutso, but I know the Lord granted me that consolation out of mercy, out of kindness, and most of all for His Glory. Because He knows how much I need to trust in Him, how I need to know how close He is to my heart. And He knows that it is to His Glory that such a consolation is a testament.
Nevertheless, He is so wise. Let it not go unnoticed that He didn't grant me such consolations when I was in the thick of desolation--when I was crying out to Him for a miracle, when I was begging Him to console me in my grief, when I was desperate to know He was there. No, this consolation came after volta. It came when I had already decided to trust in Him, even though it was painful. It came when I had already given my fiat, really and truly.
To be clear, I am not saying that I earned this consolation in any way, by trusting Him or otherwise. What I am saying is that He knew not to grant me such a consolation when I was close to despairing, because it was crucial that I trust in Him in the midst of darkness, when I could see no light, no comfort on the horizon. It was critical that I die to myself, even in the worst pain of my life, to learn to love Him while I was mourning such a loss, to learn (in my small human way) that agape that He, Himself demonstrated on the cross.
If He had granted me such consolation in the midst of my little via dolorosa, I may have never fully given myself to Him in my sorrow. I may have stopped short of the spiritual growth that He was making available to me through this loss. And what's more, I likely wouldn't have appreciated such a consolation for what it was--a true vision of heaven--because I'd still be in the midst of my grief and self-focus.
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,"
declares the Lord.
"As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts."