I never expected to be here—unsettled, sometimes looking over my shoulder at so many precious and lost moments. I expected to always look forward, always be moving somewhere. I yearn for some fruition of my dreams: a time when racism and the earth are healed, when every child is loved to his or her full potential in every way, when my lover and best friend never doubts his beauty, when I am the person on this earth whom I long to be. I long for the certainty that my children possess—that they will save the frogs.
I did not choose these dreams of mine. They were given to me. I’m sure of it. The Spirit beckoned them, whispering: “Dee Dee, this is part of my vocation for you. Strive to make these dreams a reality. I will go with you.” And with that God-inspired passion at my back, I plunged ahead, doing my best to be faithful to what was asked. Truth be told, I expected to bring at least one dream to fruition—given all the heart that I was willing to pour in and all the need and the rightness of the causes.
JUDAISM AND CHRISTIANITY urge followers to seek heavenly things, to model their lives on heavenly virtues, and to have hope in heaven. In the New Testament, heaven most often appears as the “kingdom of heaven,” God’s political and social vision for humanity, an idea that Jesus uses to criticize the Roman Empire’s oppressive domination system. Jesus’s own prayer, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10), seeks to align earthly ethics with the divine order of God’s own dwelling place. Heaven is an intrusive reality, the ever present realm of God hovering all around, sometimes even synonymous with God, as Marcus Borg writes. The Bible says the kingdom of heaven “has come near” (Matthew 4:17), and if heaven is nearby, so is God. Heaven is here-and-now, not there-and-then.
To speak of heaven, therefore, is another way to speak of the earth. But the vision for the earth that “heaven” presents is not in keeping with the world’s violence, oppression, and injustice; rather, it is an alternate vision of peace, blessing, and abundance, the world as God intended it to be. Heaven has been depicted as far away, unattainable in this life.
God’s design for our lives includes stewardship of everything we have received. Most followers of Jesus give of their finances and volunteer their time, but stewardship also means responsible living with our cars, homes, energy consumption, water use, and so on. In these areas God provides an opportunity for wisdom and discernment on our part. At the very beginning of scripture, in Genesis 1, God outlines a partnership that is wider and greener than many of us realize. It is inconsistent if we slap our 10 percent into the collection plate and then head home in a gas-guzzling car and flip on all the lights