Perfect bodies in Heaven

tomb

Beautiful, but the wrong kind of hope.

A nice family of four came to my door the other day. They were dressed too nicely for the San Diego weather and had big smiles plastered across their faces. I could see all their teeth. They introduced themselves, the faith they represented, and then got down to business. After some prompting by the mom the young boy handed me a booklet. “Here’s some information about Heaven,” he said. Inside was an illustrated picture of a man and a woman in flowing white robes. “This is what we will be like in Heaven,” his mom told me, “perfect, with no disease or disability or flaws.”

Sure, great. But then I found myself shooing them away quickly. Because my daughter had come up behind me, shyly peeking around my leg. And their looks and words held so much pity that I was afraid she would see them. Hear them. Think it had anything to do with her.

When it had everything to do with them.

Because there’s nothing sad about my daughter. And everything wrong with the way they viewed her.

Once inside the house, with the door thankfully closed, I stared at the drawing in the booklet of the two ambassadors of heavenly perfection–Caucasian, light-skinned, small noses, blonde–swimming above the skyline in flowing robes. I assume the author of this booklet got his or her idea of “perfection” by studying the bathroom mirror. But that was not the only thing that bothered me. Consider the image of these two Heaven-dwellers. They were both in human bodies that had obvious limitations as evidenced by the length of their limbs, the visible small bulges of muscles, the range of motion of their joints, etc. In other words, these two representations of perfection were not taller than a basketball player, stronger than a wrestler, or as limber as a gymnast. They had obvious limitations. They were Hollywood-ready but they were also, to make a point, disabled.

Disabled:  1. (of a person) having a physical or mental condition that limits movements, senses, or activities.

I think it’s important to realize how disabled we all are. We all have limitations. This booklet could just as easily have shown my two beautiful children—contractured limbs, missing muscles—in all their glory, flying through the clouds. It would be an improvement over what they had in the booklet and just as accurate.

So what is our baseline of heavenly perfection then if it’s not our own bodies made more attractive? This is a question I imagine this family struggling with. Because maybe they just don’t know that these fleshy bags we carry over our precious souls are not the end-all of life and perfection. Maybe they don’t know that any deviation from a majority body type or shape or color is not evidence of the Fall. No. We’re ALL evidence of the Fall! We’re not perfect! I, for one, can’t whistle or ride a skateboard. And you better believe that kid me would have had a booklet of robed skateboarding whistlers had I been in a family who went door to door! My version of glorified.

We have this human response to difference. When our children are born different we grieve, then we accept them, and sometimes we repeat that cycle perpetually. My feelings are, my grief is, normal. Natural. At times even healthy. But it’s not truth. You follow me? Human beings are beautiful. They are unique. They are priceless. And they are different from each other and there is nothing inherently sad or bad or grief-worthy about that. God takes pride in his work because he damn well knows he’s good at making people. “You formed me in my mother’s womb,” writes the psalmist, “I praise you for I am wonderfully made!” And when those with disabilities are pointed out God responds with ownership, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the LORD?” (Exodus 4:11)

The Hebrew word bara is used when humankind is made and it implies a special creation of God, outside of using materials already there. In other words he didn’t just use the forces of physics he had already set up in Genesis 1:1 to let humans just slide onto the scene, no, he intervenes and breaths life and gets his hands into the work. Much of the world he set into motion, but for us (for us!) he takes his image, which is not a physical thing, and molds us into it. He spun out a physical being from his own character and emotions and energy and then personally knits together each of that first being’s children inside their mothers. If the Bible is to be believed.

People are gifts, priceless and precious gifts—not something we can bottle into cookie-cutter images on religious booklets! Oh we are so much more! And if this family had recognized that, realized the importance of each of us, they would have gasped at the beauty that is my daughter, suddenly on the scene in all her wonder, and cried and clapped at the workmanship evident in her. On. Their. Knees.

And I’m telling you, our glorified heavenly bodies will look more like our souls and less like our skins. Mark my words. My children do not wait to be like the rest of us; we all wait together to be something new, something indescribably better.

5 Responses to “Perfect bodies in Heaven”

  1. Pat F. says:

    Absolutely right, and beautifully presented. Your children, and anyone’s children, are amazing and precious and indescribably complex; lovingly fashioned by their Creator. Thanks for reminding me to be in awe of what He has fashioned here on earth, and to eagerly await our souls set free from our earthly expectations!

  2. Danielle says:

    Love your writing! Funny and moving.

    DCS

  3. Danielle says:

    Oh, and AMEN.

  4. Kristin says:

    Couldn’t have put it better, I think that is exactly how I feel about Emma. Thank you for putting into words for me. Hugs, friend.

  5. Lori Panganiban says:

    This post was beautiful-Thank you!

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