Tasting Heaven in the Backyard

Our 20 month-old Titus, a brute of a boy, was churning his chunky legs up the grassy hill with a determined, yet jovial look on his face. He was on mission to find a Black and Decker toy drill. He is a boy’s boy. Tools, balls, trucks, tractors, dirt, collisions. He was in heaven.

We were hanging out with close friends of ours in their backyard. As we watched Titus, and the other five kids in the backyard, I said that I love seeing my children happy. Titus prowled the backyard for balls and rocks and drills. And he was happy. My daughters were rolling down the hill with old friends and swinging and sliding the evening away. And they were happy. And in that moment I found my happiness in theirs.

I told my wife and our friends that seeing my kids’ uninhibited, unadulterated happiness (you might use the word “joy,” and that’s a good word, too; I’m using them interchangeably here) reminds me of Jonathan Edwards’ sermon, “Heaven, A World of Love.” At one point in the sermon, Edwards says that in heaven we will “all rejoice in [other people] being the most happy.” Edwards is saying that in heaven our happiness will be in the happiness of others. For example, in heaven, if someone has a greater amount of rewards than you, you will not be envious of them. You will enjoy their enjoyment of what God has given them. Can you imagine?! In other words, you’ll not just be happy for them, you will find your happiness in their happiness. This is true love. This is how God designed human relationships to work.

Yet this is very often not true in this life. In fact, it’s too easy to become crotchety and cynical when others are happy. I might be happy for them. “Oh, I’m so happy that you got the credit for your hard work.” This might actually be a prideful reflex masked with a token gesture. What’s really going on in my heart is that I wanted the credit!

With my children last night in the backyard, it was another story. I delighted in their delight. I am giggly, smiley happy when they giggle, smile, or express their happiness as they only know how. It’s not mainly because in those moments they aren’t screaming about a toy, whining about being hungry, or fighting over who gets to brush teeth first. It’s something deeper that God has embedded into the hearts of human beings, Christian or not. It’s a signal to us that we were made for another world, a world of love where we will actually, truly be happy because others are happy. It was a foretaste of heaven right in our friends’ backyard. It was a small, gracious gift meant to remind us there is much, much more to come.

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