I've spent the last several weeks - a couple of months, really - wanting to be somewhere else. And now I'm seeing a trend.
We took baby to the pool this morning. This is a really fancy indoor pool with a lazy river/current path, whirlpool, hot tub, lap lanes, deep end with water slide, and shallow end with brightly colored "water works" area - short slides, fountains with showers large and small. Baby was mesmerized by the water sprouting out of tall blue pipes and the constant action of falling water in that area. But when we took him over there, he was less enchanted. In the end, he liked "swimming" in the deeper water rather than playing in the shallow area.
I'm reading Pilgrim's Progress - re-reading is the appropriate word, although I don't remember that much of it, having read it more than 40 years ago. I remember certain things - like the Slough of Despond - but mostly I feel as if I am reading it for the first time. Christian, and all those whom he encounters who can be counted among the good guys - Evangelist, for example - continue to focus upon the place where they are not now. First get through the gate. And then when you get there, focus on the next part of the journey, focus on being somewhere else and just endure where you are now as best you can. Where Christian is now, at every turn, seems to be fraught with temptation to go down a side path and thus away from salvation. Now the burden is heavy, but then it will be taken away. Now the path is difficult but then it will be easy. Now is not where you want to be because paradise is somewhere else.
I know that for many people, "heaven" is a goal that may be the only thing keeping one going in this earthly life. There is a "better place" where our loved ones now reside, where we will rejoin them, where the things that are beautiful and true exist.
But at the same time, such an orientation denies the goodness of this life, of where we are now. The focus on being somewhere else keeps one from seeing the beautiful and the true where we are now. For Christian, enjoying the beautiful in this place was just too tempting - such enjoyment might lead one (such as the character Pliable) to just go home and enjoy oneself now and let the possibility of heaven pass away. Too much enjoyment of this earthly life might cause one not to be willing to work for the Kingdom.
I don't really hold with that, although I see how it can be comforting and can be a good thing. It is not an either/or, though; it's much more complicated than that. I think God is with us here and now - that creation is good and life is beautiful. And yet to live with God eternally must be something like ecstasy. And so we must live in the tension of now and later, of here and somewhere else.