A song from many years ago has begun haunting my musings. I have always enjoyed movies, and when I was in graduate school, I spent many hours (possibly too many) at the Kentucky Theater. At that time, the Kentucky had a repertory schedule, showing a variety of movies each week; the offerings included classic movies, independent films, foreign films, and art-house fare. Admission was cheap, compared to the first-run cineplex theaters, and the ambiance was comforting—the Kentucky is a beautiful place, a theater built in the 1920s and maintained very nicely during its years in downtown Lexington. It was at the Kentucky that I first encountered the film Eraserhead, by David Lynch. Eraserhead is a black-and-white nightmare of images and symbols, and it works successfully on several levels. One of the iconic images from the film (for me, at least), is the Lady in the Radiator (played by Laurel Near): the protagonist lives in an apartment with old radiators that clank and whistle, and—in the midst of his surreal life—the Lady in the Radiator appears, singing a song entitled "In Heaven." So I have found myself humming this as this chapter approached.
The song, like so many other things in this film, is very simple and very repetitive. The Lady in the Radiator sings, "In Heaven, everything is fine. In Heaven, everything is fine. You've got your good things. And I've got mine." Not exactly hymn material. I think the reason I have this stuck in my head, aside from the fact that there is nothing much else up there to crowd it out, is that speaks to an all-too-common perception we have about heaven—and, by association, about God.
Heaven, for many of us, is all about fluffy clouds and harps, wings, and halos; for others, it is streets of gold and mansions. We—because we are human and cannot help ourselves—put everything in human terms. We cannot begin to imagine heaven, so we conjure up images to which we can relate. And that is okay unless we let this begin to seep into our relationship with God. Putting our human spin on heaven makes it material, a thing, because that is how we tend to think. By extension, though, we sometimes begin to skew our relationship with God into something that is all about things. We trivialize God.
The other disturbing thing about the song stuck in my head is the idea buried in the second part of the lyrics: "You've got your good things. And I've got mine." On the surface, this appears pretty much an innocent thing; but, what troubles me is that not only does it suggest that heaven is about things but that we are separate, isolated. I do not like that it becomes, in a way, an us-and-them thing (here, a you-and-me thing). My personal bias is that heaven is much more about solidarity. I guess I am infusing my own humanness into the idea. I want to make heaven into something about family and relationships and connections, and that probably runs just as much a risk of being wrong as if I made it about rainbows and fields of flowers.
I think I am bringing it back to the idea we discussed earlier, about heaven in our daily lives, and I see relationships as integral to that. We have to reach out to others. We have to embrace our brothers and sisters; we have to accept the people in our lives; we have to touch the hearts of others so that we can be better connected to God. In my world-view, connecting to God requires connecting with His children—and that is heaven.
Acts 2:44-47 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
(To read all of Rodney's work on The Lord's Prayer, find his book HERE.)