Synopsis: Heaven: Your Real Home by Joni Eareckson Tada is not a book of deep theology, but a book of one (extraordinary) woman’s fascination with the “land that stretches afar.” Tada attempts to answer such questions as these:
- What’s so great about heaven?
- What will we do in heaven?
- Where is heaven and what is it like?
However, the strength of this book is in the encouragement is provides, not the theological and philosophical questions it settles. Tada writes with such warmth and enthusiasm that I could not help but long for heaven a little more after reading her book.
My Thoughts: I will be honest in saying that I probably would not have picked this book up (at least not a long while) on my own. I chose to read it as a part of the Semicolon Book Club. I had a nodding acquaintance with Joni Eareckson Tada and the dichotomous tragedy/triumph that is her life, but I had never read any of her books. I have a faint memory from my childhood of watching a movie about her life. I distinctly remember seeing her paint, paintbrush clenched between her teeth. Because I had never read any of her books, though, I did not know what to expect from this one. While I enjoyed the book from its beginning, I thought that it lacked organization early on. The first six chapters or so could’ve been shaken up together in a hat, and a paragraph from any chapter could’ve been drawn out and put in place of a paragraph from any other chapter with no discernible difference in theme. Again, this is not to say that I didn’t like it, but rather that I prefer books with a more obvious thematic thread.
A shift occurred in my reading of this book long about chapter seven. Chapter seven completely enthtralled me. Chapter seven, entitled “Heaven: The Home of Love,” begins with a fictional story illustrative of the Jewish custom of betrothal. Something about that story got me right in the heart. The point of chapter seven is that we long for heaven because, as the Bride, we long for Christ. The rest of the book focuses on this longing and the meaning behind pain and suffering. This part of the book really spoke to me because I figure if anyone understands pain and suffering, this author does. She writes about it with such clarity, like she really gets the design behind the trials and tribulations we humans face on this earth:
Nothing more radically altered the way I looked at my suffering than leapfrogging to this end-of-time vantage point. Heaven became my greatest hope. In fact, I wondered how other people could possibly face quadriplegia, cancer, or even a death in the family without the hope of heaven. It meant no more wallowing away hours by the farmhouse window, scorning Romans 8:28, and muttering, “How can it say all things fit together into a pattern of good in my life!” God’s pattern for my earthly good may have smelled like urine and felt painful, but I knew the end result in heaven would exude a fragrant and glorious aroma: Christ in me, the hope of glory. ( 180)
Her suffering has definitely been the gateway to her own close relationship with the Lord:
Now, I’m not one to pipe up and call myself a wise virgin. But, thankfully, I’ve got some help with this thing about spiritual intimacy. My wheelchair. I get exhausted after a long day of sitting in my chair, and so most evenings I have to lie down at around 7:30. Lying in bed paralyzed, I have all the time in the world to wait on Jesus, to focus the eyes of my heart on those heavenly coordinates. My bedroom is a quiet place and softly lit. No music. No TV. The clock ticks. If there’s a breeze outside, the wind chimes tinkle. Our dog, Scrappy, may curl up at the edge of the bed and softly snore. It’s a place where I cannot do anything,. . . I can only be. And I choose to be the wise virgin who pours my love into the marriage contract. (142)
Tada even offers a little bit of rebuke to the self-centered faith that is admittedly a large part of our affluent “Christian” nation:
Jesus is the Lord of heaven and earth.
We said it in our prayers, we sang it in our songs, and we would have sworn we believed it with a capital B. But it never really clicked for us. That’s because “us” kept getting in the way. All those years when earthly trials hit us hard, we burnt rubber in our brains trying to figure out what it meant to us. How problems fit into God’s plan for us. How Jesus could be conformed in us. Everything was always “for us.” Even Sunday worship service focused on how we felt, what we learned, and if the hymns were to our liking.
Why, oh why, didn’t we take the hint from Acts 17:24 [. . ."the God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth"] and switch our attention off us and onto Him? Why didn’t we appreciate that God gave every trials, heartache, and happiness to show us something about Himself? [. . .]
We always marvel that God shows an interest in us, but in heaven it will be clear that every earthly thing happened so that we’d show an interest in Him. (156)
I love to read books that give me something to ponder, and this one does. I think Tada’s goal for this book would be for its readers to long for heaven with a fervency that they’ve never had before. I think this book does that. Even so, come Lord Jesus!