A group of my friends got to talking about movies they had seen, in which ghosts, spirits, and angels were depicted, as well as heaven and hell. To most of the group, heaven seemed very dull, a place where people floated around all dressed in white, with vacant smiles on their faces. One friend joked, "Heaven is so boring. I'd much rather be in hell -- at least there's something to do around there!"
It does seem that heaven -- or heavenly harmony -- is traditionally conceived of as a kind of vacuum in which most of the things that give our lives meaning and interest are absent: color, flavor, creativity, discovery, humor, and purpose. That does sound pretty awful!
But does it make sense that the very qualities that bring vitality and richness to daily living could be lacking when more heaven or harmony comes into our lives? Must one relinquish his or her individuality and self-expression, sense of discovery, wonder, loving, giving, and laughing in order to experience heaven on earth?
Christian Science makes a strong case for the undiminished continuity of everything that is worthwhile, throughout eternity. Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, wrote a book called Unity of Good, which says: "All that is beautiful and good in your individual consciousness is permanent. That which is not so is illusive and fading" (p. 8). On this basis, one may conclude that the only qualities missing from heaven are those that aren't wanted. And who would mourn the loss of what's not beautiful or good?
To a great extent, our often unfavorable estimate of spiritual life is the result of confusion over what brings real joy. We believe we're really living when we satisfy each self-indulgent inclination that shows up. We feel repressed if we must live within moral constraints such as duty, obedience, self-control, and forgiveness. Somehow, were we to be stripped of all but the qualities that represent God in our lives, we feel our situation would change for the worse.
The incorrectness of believing that there is pleasure to be found in corrupt and selfish ways of thinking and acting was exposed by Christ Jesus in a parable. He told about a wheat field infested with weeds ("tares") that looked almost identical to the wheat itself. The field workers were eager to begin pulling the weeds out, but the master stopped them and said: "Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn" (Matthew 13:29, 30).
Proverbially, we all mistake the tares for the wheat in our lives to some degree. Often decades go by before one begins to notice that even the most admirable constituents of his or her character need to be refined. And sometimes people wait a long time before beginning to destroy imperfections of character, even though they've long been aware of them. Jesus understood the need for patience and care in not forcing this often delicate process of separating good from bad, truth from falsity, before we clearly see which is which. But at the same time, this separation must come, and it is wise to start without delay. This is a process of learning what is truly good and separating oneself from what doesn't measure up.
Mary Baker Eddy's companion book to the Bible, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, shows that heaven is a state of thought. It says, "Heaven is not a locality, but a divine state of Mind in which all the manifestations of Mind are harmonious and immortal, because sin is not there and man is found having no righteousness of his own, but in possession of 'the mind of the Lord,' as the Scripture says" (p. 291).
This purifying activity might seem daunting, but it shouldn't be. Sincerity, earnestness, and honest labor will accomplish the needed results. There's assurance in Jesus' words from John: "In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you" (14:2). And who knows -- maybe we'll find that God's mansions have something even better than cable TV!
*You can find in-depth articles on Christian Science in a monthly magazine, The Christian Science Journal.