Many people think of heaven as a place where your desires are fulfilled, where you never lack for anything, and where this state continues forever. It sounds good until you try to answer the question: What is it you really want?
We think we know what we want. We can certainly make lists and lists of what we want. Still, we don’t know our true desires like we think we do. Peter Kreeft in his book Heaven, the Heart’s Deepest Longing talks about our inner child and adult desires. He asks,
What do children search for even after opening a thousand Christmas presents? For more of the same?…Our adult pretends to want pleasure, power, wealth, health or success, then gets it, then pretends to be happy. But our child knows what we want—nothing less than infinite joy—and as children we know we don’t have it….The deep hunger of the heart remains unsatisfied.
So again we ask: What do we want? Kreeft tells us that St. Augustine proposed this thought experiment:
Imagine God appeared to you and said, ‘I’ll make a deal with you if you wish. I’ll give you anything and everything you ask: pleasure, power, honor, wealth, freedom, even peace of mind and a good conscience. Nothing will be a sin; nothing will be forbidden; nothing will be impossible for you. You will never be bored and you will never die. Only—you shall never see my face.’
Never see His face! Kreeft asks,
Did you notice that unspeakable chill in your deepest heart at those last words? Did your surface desires leap after the first part of God’s deal and your deepest desire freeze in standstill shock at ‘you shall never see my face?’ Your surface mind, which is in touch with your surface desires may not admit it, but your deepest mind, which knows your deepest desire, knows it: you want God more than anything else in the world.
That is what we want: We want God. And yet, we do not want Him. We spend inordinate amounts of time avoiding Him, seeking anything but Him, distracting ourselves with entertainment, work, other relationships, all to avoid Him. But God has set eternity in our hearts, so though we try to fill our longing with every available item in the world, we find there is nothing here to satisfy it. And that is our hope. For someday, we shall be satisfied.
Lewis sums it up this way in the Weight of Glory:
What more, you may ask, do we want? Ah, but we want so much more—something the books on aesthetics take little notice of. But the poets and the mythologies know all about it. We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else, which can hardly be put into words—to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it unto ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it…. At present, we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door….But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumour that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get in…in through Nature, beyond her, into that splendour which she fitfully reflects.
Someday, we shall no longer long for something we can’t have. We shall know Him, and we will be known. We will know what we want, and we will know who we are. For He shall give us the white stone with our new name written on it which no man will know except the one receiving it and God. God himself will tell us who we are. And the longing will be fulfilled. For it is God himself for which we long.
Now that is a heaven fit for eternity. No one longs for streets of gold. No one longs for an eternity chatting with the minor prophets. No one longs for an eternity of praise songs. The heaven I long for can’t be described by beautiful word pictures. But it is its very ineffability that makes it worthy.
Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit, for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.
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