[Jesus looking around the room and seeing all the Potential]
Speaking of death and heaven and what happens when you die, a very clever person sent me an extraordinary 3 second clip that I can’t figure out how to share because I lack even basic technological skills—but I was able to watch it over and over again and write down all the words on a piece of paper and then haul out my tiny keyboard and type them out.
The person speaking is Rachel Hollis in a billowy diaphanous outfit that shows off her beautifully toned arms. Someone, I guess, was filming her on stage at some manner of motivational (or is it de-motivational…I can never remember) speech she was giving. I can’t find this video anywhere else, which is understandable, because this one line is so uncool that should she have gone on talking about it, I can see how it would have been a theological nightmare.
So here are Rachel Hollis’ brief, out of context, thoughts about heaven:
At the end of our life, we’re gonna go up to heaven and God is going to introduce us to the person we could have been—to the person we could have been if we had lived into our potential.
Let’s just have a pause while I go stress eat a tub of tater tots….
This is not what will happen when ‘we’ all go to heaven. Incidentally, this is why I am not a great lover of the ‘we’ and ‘our’ way of speaking, even though I myself am falling into it more and more—it is so ubiquitous, it is just the way ‘we’ all talk now and it’s hard to remember another mode of expression.
In this case it is unhelpful because ‘we’ are unlikely to all go to heaven. Some of us will not get there, and it is up to God to sort it out.
So, I am going to be obnoxious and just pause and explain how, exactly, it is that ‘we’ and anyone will get to heaven. I would have thought that this was basic, but there is Rachel Hollis up on a stage, claiming to be a Christian, and she obviously has no idea what she is talking about, and there are lots and lots and lots of people listening to her, so I’m just gonna stop and annesplain real quick.
Picking up the apostle Paul out of context and in the middle of a long thought, because the whole book of Romans is kind of a run on sentence, which I wouldn’t know anything about,
…because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.
If you flip around the Bible you’ll see that Jesus, the Son of God, came into the world to die in the place of sinners. He went to the cross of his own will to save those who would look to him for eternal life. So, if that’s what you want—to live with him forever—you need to confess your sins. You need to have a faith that involves trust. You can’t just walk down the sawdust aisle and say a prayer and call it good enough. You have to trust in the actual Jesus and not one of your own making. This is not some magical formula that if you say it right everything is fine. You have to put your whole self into the hands of the risen Jesus and trust him to ‘save’ you, that is rescue you out of the death that you have irrevocably bound yourself to through sin and rebellion.So, you’ll notice a big problem here. And that is that Jesus is an essential component for ‘us’ all going to heaven. The person who is going to heaven is most anxious to see Jesus face to face, to end this epically agonizing engagement and finally enter to the true and longed-for marriage between Christ and his Church.
There are some lovely things promised when you finally see Jesus face to face. Like, he’s gonna wipe away all the tears from your eyes forever. He’s working on a room and a feast that will go on for, well, I guess also forever. He will finally and completely trample Satan down under his feet. He will remake the heavens and the earth to be new and sparkly. Those who love him will get to be with him for always.
Here’s a thing there won’t be—a big megaton with your life playing on it over and over so that everyone can see what a shameful, small person you are in your soul. I heard that in a ghastly sermon once. And also, there won’t be any chatter about your ‘potential’. Jesus is not Pinocchio in a Geico commercial trying to fluff a crowd of middle-aged, washed up office workers, his nose growing ever longer.
What is it about potential? Our potential, my potential, your potential. I don’t have potential. I am not sitting on some goldmine of untapped earning opportunity, or a lot of fancy special thoughts that if I could just get them out onto the internet the whole world would be amazed. I am a sinner. I am tired. I need help. I need saving.
Fortunately for me, I have someone—Jesus—who endured the shame I rightly deserve for my sin, my folly, and my failure. Because I trust him now and evermore put my body, soul, and mind in his hands, relying on his perfect finished saving work, humiliation is not waiting for me at the end. As I go along in my fraught, meager existence, I don’t have to beat myself into a frothy, narcissistic self-aggrandizing motivationally induced ‘potential’. I can just get up in the morning and go about my life trusting the God of the universe to drag me over the finish line for his own glory and because of his infinite and merciful goodness.
So, you know what, I eschew you, tub of cold tater tots! For the glory of God, and for the sake of his kingdom, I will eat a humble banana lathered in unsugared peanut butter and listen to a child struggle through a ghastly page of children’s literature, because that is all the potential that lies before me for now. And because I already love Jesus, I guess it will be a little glimpse of heaven on earth.