This Side of Heaven

Exactly a year from now, my best friend from high school and I had an innocent, wonderful New Year’s Eve celebration.  We hunkered down at her Chicago apartment – the skyscraper view from her floor-to-ceiling window was breathtaking – gorged ourselves on snacks, and watched Camp Rock, Mean Girls, and Heathers, the mean-girl characters getting progressively grimmer with each movie.  Moments before the stroke of 12, we poured ourselves cherry colas in wine glasses (still can’t legally buy alcohol) and asked each other what our New Year’s resolutions were.

Sadly, I cannot remember what either of us said.

Anyways, I’ve always found the New-Year traditions to be rather funny in their contradictoriness.  For one thing, it’s a time for going wild, drinking a lot, dancing on the streets, kissing strangers, making hilarious mistakes – I’m speaking of stereotypes, not personal experience.  But there’s no denying that a New Year’s Eve celebration has connotations of madness. It is a night to live in the present.  Last year, my friend posted on Facebook the day after: “Happy National Walk-of-Shame Day.”

But then, funny enough, one of the common traditions is reflecting on the past year and expressing a goal for this new one, for the future.  And yet, it’s not the end of the season, it’s not the end of the school year/beginning of summer.  It’s just New Year’s Eve.  So I suppose this is a holiday that you, traditionally, live in the present but also dream for the future.

And I love this idea of dwelling on both the present and future because I feel like oftentimes there is a pull for more emphasis on one of them.  High school for me was always planning for university in the future but when it came to being in a relationship with someone, everyone was telling me to enjoy the present and that thinking of the future would ruin the experience.  Obviously, those are two very different circumstances but it does make me feel defensive for someone who savors their high school experience and for someone who realistically considers a potential future with their boyfriend/girlfriend.  So, maybe New Years can be seen as a reminder of how to enjoy the present while also anticipate the future.

When I think about this, my mind wanders to something that a lot of non-Christians say to me:

“Why focus so much on the afterlife?  You don’t savor the present at all.”

It’s true that Christians talk so much about how broken this world is and how we can’t wait to be in Heaven – a really sad thing to hear if, in your world, Heaven doesn’t exist and this life is all we got.  But to Christians, it’s a reality and we look forward to Heaven as a place where we can see God face-to-face, where we feel like we belong, where there is no brokenness, and the list goes on and on.  There’s a lot to look forward to in Heaven.

But surprisingly, it makes me enjoy the present even more.  I have reassurance in times when I feel frustrated with myself or with the things around me.  I have expectation, comfort, a reason to feel hopeful.  I can, practically, live in the present because I’m under the conviction that the present is only a shadow of what’s to come.

Romans 8:24-25 says: “For in this hope, we were saved.  But hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what they see?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.”

Last New Year’s Eve, when I shared with my friend the goals I had for the future, I felt nervous to live in the present because I wanted to plan everything out so that I could definitely achieve those goals.  But when it comes to spirituality, I feel assured by God’s promise of Heaven – so assured that I can relish the life He has given me here on Earth, on this side of Heaven.

Happy New Years, everyone!

-Rachel

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