Last month I spent a few days down in Saint Louis. I spent one day visiting the museums and sites in the city and even took in a trip to the zoo–something I hadn’t done since I was nine years old.
At nine years old the Saint Louis Zoo was amazing. I distinctly remember watching a large brown bear with huge claws as he raked them against a tree in his enclosure. It was the kind of display of size and strength that really makes an impression on a child. In addition to the animals there was the train and the carrousel and so many other activities that I simply couldn’t imagine a better place than the zoo. I remember thinking that if I could get away with it I would hide myself away somewhere and spend the rest of my life at the zoo. Surely they had a special cage for nine year olds, right?
I hadn’t been to the Saint Louis Zoo for thirty-seven years. In the decades since, though, I’m afraid I lost a bit of the wide-eyed wonder I had as a child. I rode the carrousel again; it seemed to go on a little too long. I watched the train roll by a few times and noticed it looked much smaller than it did last time. And I visited the bear enclosure again.
It was while watching the bear that it hit me. The bear was just as huge as the one that had been there on my first visit. His claws looked just as dangerous but something had changed–me. Rather than being impressed with the power of this beast I found myself wondering what else is there to do? Where else can we go? I was bored. Honestly, the bear seemed bored too.
And then it really hit me. Will I be this bored in heaven? Think about it. We will be there for eternity. I’m sure it’s beautiful and awe inspiring, but after a few thousand years of walking by the same tree or viewing the same colorful gemstones, will I find myself used to the sights? Will there be a day after a few millennia in heaven when I gaze upon the crystal waters of the River of Life and simply think, “meh”?
I don’t think so. Because I don’t simply believe it will be a new heaven and a new earth but a new me.
In Isaiah’s vision of heaven we read, “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness. (Isaiah 65:17-18)” It’s not just about the new heaven in its beauty; it’s about a new you and me! Unburdened by sin and decay, we become people who are able to be glad and rejoice forever. In addition to the beautiful scenery God says he will fill heaven with people who are “a gladness.” That’s you and me!
And the beautiful thing is that doesn’t start when we get to heaven—it starts now! In Lamentations 3:22-23, Jeremiah notes, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Every day there are opportunities to see the grace and mercy of God. Every day there are glimpses of heaven if we will only look for them.