I don’t know much about God. I don’t presume to know. I know he is a great guy. Provided he is a he. Then again, what if he’s not?
I don’t mean to suggest God is a woman. But if God is indeed male, then who stands around telling him what to do all day?
You cannot tell me that God is an ordinary male. If God were a guy, the universe would have been repaired with duct tape and would have completely fallen apart a long time ago.
So this is just one of the wrongly preconceived notions I have about God.
For starters, I’ve always thought of God as a human being. Logically, I know God isn’t human. But that’s how I have imagined him. He had four limbs, a belly button, probably blue eyes, an American accent.
Also, I’ve always thought of him as an old man. White hair, long beard. Like the homeless guy who stands on the corner at Walmart. The same homeless guy who holds a cardboard sign which reads, “God Bless” while all the cars with the Greek fish on their bumpers motor past him.
Something else I always believed was that God lived far away. Way up in the sky. And I mean WAY up there. As in, billions of lightyears away. He was separate from earth and all its people by some unseen chasm. Distant. Aloof. He sure as heck didn’t care about me and my problems.
Which brings up the idea of heaven.
I’ve always believed heaven was a far off land. Like a fairytale kingdom where the only ones allowed inside are those who know the lyrics to Gaither songs.
I am a product of my Southern Baptist upbringing. In my childhood brain, heaven was a huge dry county, filled with Baptists.
A Methodist might gain heavenly entrance now and then, but only if they accidentally fell into the First Baptist baptismal beforehand.
Presbyterians were probably there, too, but you’d never know it because Presbyterians wouldn’t make any noise in church if a rat was crawling up their leg.
Church of Christ people were there because they were really just Baptists who couldn’t afford pianos.
Episcopalians definitely weren’t in heaven because they had Pabst Blue Ribbon at their Christmas parties.
And Catholics were most certainly in hell because they could gamble in Biloxi and they often smoked herbal incense during church.
At least this is what childhood me believed.
To me, heaven was a realm with mother-of-pearl gates, where an ancient angel stood before a ledgerbook and decided who would and wouldn’t go to everlasting damnation.
Truthfully, my image of heaven comes largely from the cartoons in the Sunday newspaper. Like the cartoon where there is a man standing in line for heaven is frisked by an angel. The angel says, “He’s clean.”
Heaven to me was merely a bunch of clouds and people in flowy tunics. Everyone was blonde, sort of like visiting Sweden, except with more harps.
And mainly, heaven was just a bunch of big mansions. Kind of like riding through the neighborhoods in Moutainbrook, only with more clouds.
What did people do in heaven all day? Because if what my childhood minister said was true, everyone would be singing all the time. Twenty-four hours per day. Endless singing. Which is a frightening thought.
Because if you’d ever visited my church, you’d know that most members of our congregation couldn’t carry a tune if it had been tattooed on their inner thigh.
Also, we would be eating a lot of fruit in heaven. Our Sunday school teacher used to have a flannel board illustration depicting the Tree of Life, which was basically a big apple tree. A tree which also, apparently, produced bananas and cherries.
So fruit was all you ate. All day every day. Fruit, fruit, fruit. And if you got tired of fruit, tough spit.
But I now know I was wrong about everything concerning God and heaven.
Because this morning, I got an email from a little girl. Her name is Jessica. She is 11 years old. Her mother died last year of glioblastoma. She has been having a tough time. Suffering from anxiety and depression.
She wrote to me saying, “Dear Mister Sean, I wanted to know what you think heaven is like.
“I think heaven is just like living down here, with all the same stuff we have right now like chips and Coke and cars and people and dogs.
“But in heaven, nobody’s parents die and there are no doctors or cancer to worry about. And whenever you want a hug from God, he just gives you one. And angels aren’t people with wings and halos like I used to think, all the angels are just everyone’s moms.”
Dear Jessica. I think you’re absolutely right.