The Concert Master stood and nodded to the oboe player. A clear, woody concert ‘A’ resonated from her bell. At the nod of the concert master, the woodwinds played their concert A, followed by the brass and finally the strings. The sounds swirled around the room, luscious and rich.
My heart stirred with a mingling of trepidation and joy; it had been nearly thirteen years…
The conductor lifted his baton. Every member in the orchestra sat poised and ready, awaiting the downbeat.
The baton dropped and the music rose.
All the pressing stress from the day—my fears and worries—evaporated as I concentrated on playing the right notes in tune and in time. There were dynamics, alternate fingerings, key signature and tempo changes to watch.
The harmonies vibrated in the air as the bows of the violins undulated back and forth in sync with the concert master. My clarinet seemed to be singing as though exhilarated with the life being breathed into it again. I felt a delight that had been absent for a long time. My cloud of depression was temporarily dissipated by the tones that moved in the air around me.
It was a taste of joy.
As I continued rehearsals and performances in the months that followed, I noticed a lift in my perspective. I felt revived every time I played. Why was this the vehicle to jolt me out of my depression? Why music?
Several years before I re-entered the music scene, I had an experience that will stay with me until the end of my days. I was fifteen years old and going on a trip with two of my older friends. We were on our way to Sequoia National Park for a week of camping. Our first stop was a brief stay on the Central Coast in California.
Friday evening, I sat in a high school gym in Morro Bay, California, surrounded by fellow Christians. There were over one thousand people present, all sitting in a full circle around a central podium. The first song leader stepped on to the podium and began to lead all one thousand people in the first song.
Never before, and never since, have I been surrounded by the sound of anything so beautiful as the sound of one thousand people singing in four-part a cappella harmony filled my ears.
The sheer volume took my breath away as my voice was joined to with those around me. No single voice stood out, but it was as though we were one voice united in praise to our awesome and powerful God.
It was a momentary taste—the palest glimpse—of what I imagine awaits us in heaven.
I cannot fathom what heaven will be like, but I imagine that it will be unspeakable joy to stand in the presence of the Lord who has loved me forever.
What a beautiful sight awaits us, surrounded by those who share in our love for the Lord, as we all lift up perfect songs of praise to Him in beautiful, resonant harmony.
If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.
If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud.
Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.
If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or to be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage.
I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that country and to help others to do the same.”
~C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (emphasis and breaks mine)
I am writing these things, not to be flowery or showy, but to bring to remembrance our goal: we are seeking a country beyond this one.
A few nights ago, I had a discussion with a young man about this life, and he felt that the phrase “enduring to the end” sounded too miserable, so he always thought the phrase “enjoy to the end” instead.
I looked at him a bit sadly. My response was, “what of Jeremiah, Isaiah, Paul, Peter, the early Christians and Jesus himself?” Did they “enjoy life” in the way we think of enjoyment?
If we aim for earth, we will miss heaven.
I believe that if we are blessed with the opportunity to have a life with comforts and enjoyments—great! But if my heart seeks only the temporal delights of earth, I will miss the greater joy that God wants me to receive.
This is NOT all there is.
The Hebrew writer, when talking about the people of faith said,
“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland.
And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return.
But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country.
Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.”
I have experienced other shadows or glimpses of heaven in the following moments:
- Holding each of my newborn children and gazing with wonder at their perfectly formed bodies—their delicate hands, eyelashes, mouths, toes and fingers.
- Watching my friends go down into the water to be baptized, knowing that they were now part of the body of Christ.
- Standing across from my beloved on our wedding day and feeling the overwhelming love and peace of our new marriage as tears of joy flowed recklessly down my cheeks.
This is not a comprehensive list, but as I say, they are mere shadows of the joy that awaits us in heaven.
In those moments we feel overwhelming delight, awe and wonder. Those moments are emblazoned in your memory for a lifetime.
And yet… it doesn’t even compare with what awaits us.
Are you feeling weighed down with the world today? Are you so entangled with your own affairs that you haven’t given heaven a second thought? Are you wondering if being a Christian is “worth it” ?
Here is what the Hebrew writer wrote to his fellow believers:
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12.1-2, NKJV
Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.
Hebrews 12.12-13, ESV
and one more…
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
Hebrews 12.22-24, ESV
Read the full text of Hebrews 12 by clicking here.
It’s easy to get bogged down in the heartaches and pleasures of what we see, taste, touch, hear and feel.
Learn what pleases the Lord; try to see the world through His eyes (hint: it’s a good idea to get acquainted with your bible if you want to do this right) and you just might catch those glimmers of heaven; you will assuredly discover real and lasting joy if you do!
Paul wrote the following to the Philippians:
“…one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way…”
We have something far better waiting for us than this life. We have a “why” to live for no matter how bad things get. We have a beautiful country waiting for us that is far better than what we see here.
We have hope. And the hope we have in Christ does NOT disappoint.
Press on to know the Lord.
Press on towards that far distant country and have courage.
God be with you, my friends.