It was only two Springs ago, when I went on what I thought might be our last family vacation to my Heaven on Earth. All packed up, I went to bed the night before, and like years past, that recurring nightmare popped into my mind. The nightmare I had the night before my first trip, when I was only six years old, consisting of a demonic green witch, slowly stirring her bubbling pot of stew with the stick of her broom… the sound of the bubbling stew, clouded by the witches’ obnoxious cackle… bloop! EEEEE-HEHEHE… bloop…BLOOP! Right when the last bubble popped, I woke up, startled. Vacation could not have come soon enough. I was six years old. But two Springs ago, vacation came, and vacation went.
Vacation came soon enough. It came at just the right time, when I needed it the most. Having had a rough year, I needed a break from school, drama, friends, emotion… maybe even family. But my fantasy and hope of relaxation and recovery didn’t exactly do me any favor. I knew good and well that I had family depending on me, and me on them, and I wouldn’t be free to do whatever I wanted. It’s never like that. Which is why I have promised myself that maybe ten or twelve years after I successfully land a job and buy a home, I’ll take a solo trip to some island, far far away, and do whatever the heck I want. But anyway, two Springs ago, I took a relaxing and refreshing trip to Sanibel Island with my family. The place I had, until recently, deemed as my Heaven on Earth.
Like I said, its different now. I love the question my theology teachers ask us periodically.
“How do you picture Heaven to be?”
I always say I don’t know.
Now I do.
There is a place I now know, but I didn’t know it until last summer. I went to camp. Alone. I wasn’t sure who would be there. I just knew I was going, and I couldn’t wait. Clearly, it was a success. This is what I came home with. This is the impression it made on my life.
The people at this place practice virtue. Kindness. Patience. Love. Selflessness. Honesty. Truth. Comfort.
These people listen. They say the right things. They seem to always say loving things. And I mean always. When I go to this place, I never go a second without smiling. I never go a second without feeling like I am smart, important…. I never go a second without feeling I am perfect. They tell me I’m perfect, that I’m absolutely wonderful just the way I am. I try to tell them the same.
Every opinion I have is worthy. Every thought I have is heard. Every concern is taken care of. Every hope is affirmed. Every word is fulfilling.
My Heaven on Earth is at Catholic youth summer camp. It is youth group every Sunday night. It is knowing in my heart that I have formed these relationships that I can always run to, that will never go away no matter where I go away to. My Heaven on Earth is wherever I feel God is present, working in me and those around me. I can see God in these people. I know what Heaven is. And it could only be better.
It’s an amazing thing to be surrounded by the Lord. It’s a hard situation to describe. The feelings of love and happiness are so overwhelming that they can’t be fully explained. The only thing I know is that the Lord is present and working in his servants. When we come together, whether it is two of us or hundreds… an explosion of good things is all I feel and see.
“God saw all that he had made, and it was good.” -Gen 1:31
I think that maybe, when I was six, something was being spoken to me. I invested my image of Heaven in an experience lacking of Christ, and it needed to be awoken by an ugly evil witch. Now that I have invested my life into a community full of life and love, founded in Christ, there is not a single demon that can snatch me away. When I surround myself with others of faith, I fall into a life of complete trust in the Lord, and I have yet to have a bad experience with this life. The only thing that could make me happier is for my Heaven to follow me everywhere I go. I will continue to work to bring Christ into my community and all of my relationships, to fully experience life in every waking moment, and I hope you will too.