(Photo courtesy of Marta Oliveira)
Keep a Box in Heaven
By Marta Oliveira
Summer 2021. After (or still in!) a global pandemic, it feels like we all have been in the same boat, and right now, we are all eager to get on the same plane: the one going to a place that we unmistakably call paradise. Isn’t that so? We may not agree on what paradise looks like, but perhaps we can find some common ground if we think about how does it feel. And ‘rest’ is the word that comes to my mind.
I always had an increasing desire to travel around the world, fueled by an imagination that saw everywhere else as a better place than ‘here’. Eventually, I did get my chances to get around (seriously enjoying every bit of it!), but the so-called paradise I wanted was nowhere to be found. I wasn’t more at rest anywhere else than I was already ‘here’, and ‘here’ was just the same everywhere I would go. The thing is, the place of rest I am talking about it’s not the kind our bodies need, and therefore couldn’t be found on earth. There is a line in a song I love that says ‘our hearts are restless until they find rest in God’(1), and I can’t find a better way to express what I mean. Indeed, the place of rest found in God is pretty much the paradise I believe we all long for, like a taste of heaven here on earth. Imagine a land completely free of any kind of oppression. Where there are no worries, no anxieties, no fears. A place where we can let our guards down because we are absolutely safe. Where there is an abundance of joy and peace that surpasses understanding. A land where love reigns. Don’t we all want our hearts to be at rest in such a place?
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”. Matthew 6:19-21 AMP
Today we can taste heaven, but one day we’ll be able to experience the fullness of it. The expectation is great, much greater than waiting for holidays on our own paradises. But just like then, the time we wait for it is not wasted. The life we live can intentionally be a time of preparation and practice for heaven’s reality. In Matthew 6:19-21, Jesus talks about two different lifestyles: one that gives priority to the things of earth (what is temporary, here today and gone tomorrow), and another that values and seeks first the things of heaven (that which is everlasting). Now, what you value is like a treasure you keep, and your life will be focused wherever you store it. This reminds me of a box that I have at my parents place. Actually my sister started it, but it was such a genius idea that I immediately joined in! To avoid the hassle of packing (that I am sure even if you miss travelling you don’t miss that part!) I have this box in their closet full of the things that I typically use when I am there. So everytime I visit them, I basically don’t need to pack. It just feels like I am going home. The treasure Jesus talks about is like my box in heaven, my real and ultimate home (2). When it’s time to go there, I won’t need to take anything (and I couldn’t!), but I can prepare ahead for it. Everyday, there are a million opportunities to do it, or in other words, opportunities to store heavenly treasures. To choose to love God and to love people above any material thing. To be kind and do good to others. To stand by what’s true and what’s right. To seek peace in any situation or to be generous with what I have. All of these choices have eternal value, but sometimes they are not easy to make. They mean trusting God and His ways above our own, and require complete surrender to His will. But in each one we have an opportunity to, as Jesus taught us to pray, let it be ‘on earth as it is in heaven’(3). Meanwhile ‘here’, let our hearts taste His rest.
- Rest in You, by All Sons & Daughters
- Philippians 3:20
- Matthew 6:10