And This is Heaven

We’re in the last few minutes of the truly amazing City 1st Mortgage Services Branch Managers Conference.  These last minutes we are watching the final scene of Mr. Holland’s Opus, a movie that I have never seen but that is going to the top of my Netflix queue in about ten minutes.

You have to see the scene for yourself, and most of you have, I’m sure.  It comes at a particularly good time for me, as I am about to close a significant chapter of my life and move into another one that scares the living spit out of me.  Which close I did not know was going to happen until this last few minutes.

I’ve never worked particularly hard by the standards of real work. My grandfather, now, he worked hard.  My ancestry is filled with men and women that really worked hard.  My mother and father worked very hard.  My wife works hard, as do my sisters.  Their husbands are hard workers.

I want to be a hard worker.  I want that more than anything in the world.  It is the compliment that I desire above all others, to be dependable, to be reliable, to be steady.  It is the thing farthest from my natural character, and the label I fear most I will never have.

And yet.

I do what I can.  I struggle mightily.  I fail every single day, every hour of every day, to be the person I know I can be and feel I should be.  I feel much like what I see in Richard Dreyfus, Mr. Holland the music teacher, as he walks down the school hallway with his box in his hand, walks down that hallway for the thousandth and last time.  I see that he knows he is not what he should have been.  I see that he sees only the bare patches of his life.  And often, so often, that is what I see.

Nearly everyone will make that walk, and almost no one will find at the end of it an auditorium filled with people that love and care about him, standing and cheering.  Practically no one gets to see all the lives that her life has touched, all those that are better than they would have been but for that person’s passing by.

But that is Heaven.  Heaven is the place where, when you walk out of this life, you walk into an auditorium filled with the people that know you and love you and see all the horrid and petty and disgusting things you are, and don’t care, because they reject those things, because they know that those things are not you.  Not really you.

And that is why I want to go to Heaven.  Being broken, I want to see the people that know what I might be like if I were whole.  As I step out of one life and into another, so to speak, in the next few days, how I dream of that auditorium and pray that when I get there, the place will not be empty.

While simultaneously pledging to you that whoever you are, if you come here, and you read what I have to say, and if it has something at all to do with making your life better, that I will be there in your crowd screaming my head off.  That sounds like Heaven to me.

3 Responses to “And This is Heaven”

  • I’m intrigued by this bold new step. Oh and brother, I already have tickets for the front row in your auditorium.

  • Melanee says:

    Of the handful of posts I’ve been able to read here, this one is the most moving and meaningful to me. The one that makes me cry for real. Cry for real because like almost everyone on this earth, no greater gift or joy exists than to be SEEN as we truly are. Shadows, yes, but LIGHT, and it is in the LIGHT that we find truth. (I often think of all of those horrid petty things around myself and others like the dust swirling around Linus in the Peanuts cartoon. Linus is Linus. Dust is dust and can be swept away).

    A few weeks ago on a Sunday, I stopped by a woman’s house with whom I share a deep, soulful friendship. She is about 68, and and lives in a divey, smoke-filled apartment downtown with an enormous poodle, and a drawerful of candy for my girls. She is unbelievably wise, spiritual, and filled with a pure love I’ve rarely seen.

    I knocked at the door and she came out into the freezing temperature with little on but a long thin tee-shirt and slippers, a cigarette in her hand. She wept when she saw me, embarrassed about the cigarette, as she’s been attempting to quit for a long time, not coming to church because of it.

    I wrapped my arms around her shaking body while she sobbed into my coat, saying things about not being worthy, and being a failure. I pulled her back from me and looked at her in the face and said, “You are not your cigarettes,” about three or four times until she started to soften her self-accusations.

    Oh, how I understand her pain though, probably too well, as I have tended to relentlessly struggle with habits that seem to come so simply to others, with enormous desires for goodness in every respect.

    One of my favorite poems ever was written by Raymond Carver to his poet wife Tess Gallagher. Ray was diagnosed with brain cancer at the age of 50 and dedicated this poem to her.

    “And did you get
    what you wanted from this life,
    even so?
    I did.
    And what did you want?
    To call myself beloved,
    to feel myself
    beloved on the earth.”

    You must know your crowd will be filled to overflowing. I only hope I can find a spot, because it will be so fab to witness your joy. :)

  • Chris Jones says:

    I hope that there will be people in that auditorium. I believe there will be. Then we can kick off that Valhalla thing I blogged about recently.

    About your friend, C.S. Lewis says something I find comforting:

    “If you are a nice person – if Virtue comes easily to you – beware! Much is expected from those to whom much is given. If you mistake for your own merits what are really God’s gifts to you through nature, and if you are contented with simply being nice, you are still a rebel: and all those gifts will only make your fall more terrible, your corruption more complicated, your bad example more disastrous. The Devil was an archangel once; his natural gifts were as far above yours as yours are above those of a chimpanzee.

    But if you are a poor creature (here he gives some examples), do not despair. He knows all about it. You are one of the poor whom He blessed. He knows what a wretched machine you are trying to drive. Keep on. Do what you can. One day (perhaps in another world, but perhaps far sooner than that) He will fling it to the scrap heap and give you a new one. And then you may astonish us all – not least yourself: for you have learned your driving in a hard school. Some of the last will be first and some of the first will be last.”

    In some ways, I am one of those of whom much is expected. In others, one of the blessed poor, hoping that one day I’ll get something better to drive. Like you, and your friend. Like all of us that will allow Him in.

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