By: Staci Stallings
When I was back at my hometown, we used to sing a song by B.J. Thomas. The beginning went like this: “They say that Heaven’s pretty, but livin’ here is too. But if they said that I would have to choose between the two, I’d go home…”
I think for any of us the obvious answer to that “choice” would be to go home. I want to go to Heaven. I want to walk with Jesus on the streets of gold, and hold the Holy Spirit’s hand as He tells me all about everything. I’m excited about that. I’m looking forward to it.
However, yesterday while standing in our “converted worship space,” I had an odd sensation. A little background first…
As some of you know, we lost our church on February 26, 2007. In the early morning hours, the fire department was summoned to a raging fire. Before the morning was over, all we had were the walls and a whole bunch of wet, charred debris. The huge beams that used to span the length of the church had fallen. The roof was gone. Most of the pews, the altar, the decorations were gone. It was a sad, horrific day.
I remember on that day, I wrote a piece about that day being like Good Friday, when all hope seemed lost, and how because of what I had learned in that church, I knew that no matter how bad “Friday” seemed, because of God, Sunday was coming.
Well, 2 1/2 years later, “Sunday” is here. We have one more Sunday service in the worship space that had previous-to-the-fire been a gym, that was converted after the fire. Now, it is not a perfect church. It has basketball backboards on both sides–no goals, just the backboards. The entries are kind of awkward and not how anyone would design a church. The ceiling is a mass of steel, criss-crossing through can lights and court lights (that we don’t use for services). There’s the small piano and organ that were donated when the church burned, and the plastic bleachers that never would have gotten this much use in their liftetime had it not been for the fire.
Yes, it’s not a perfect worship space, although they have done an incredible job to make it seem like one. The flowers, the red runners, the chairs, the altar, the candles, the paintings, and the tabernacle are all beautiful. But it’s clear this is not a permanent place of worship. It’s only temporary.
This weekend at the end of Mass, our priest announced that the new church is almost finished, and we will be moving there in two weeks. My first thought was, “Yea!” My second, as I looked around at this gray, dim, temporary space was, “I’m gonna miss this place.”
You see in a month, that “place” will no longer exist. The chairs and decorations will be gone, replaced by an actual basketball court floor, like the one that was ruined by the water needed to put out the fire. The goals will be replaced, the dim lights will stop being used, we’ll go back to using the bright court lights. And although this time in our converted space has been marked with signs that it’s only temporary and that we’ll be moving to something bigger and better, the truth is, when it’s gone, I’m gonna miss this place.
Having had two deaths of young men very close to me over the past 2 1/2 years, I have been presented an opportunity to think a lot about “this place” we occupy here on earth. How hard it is, how temporary it is. I’ve thought about how peaceful Heaven will be, how nice it will be to be where I’m meant to be–with God all the time. However, I realized yesterday that as hard as this life is, as crazy and sometimes painful as it is, as frustrating and disappointing it is, when it’s my time to go, I’m gonna miss this place.
I will have to leave behind those I love here. I will have to let go of things I love here. And although I don’t have any Heavenly-eye-witness type knowledge, I know where I’m going will be so much better, but stepping into the unknown leaves my soul saying, “I think I’ll just stay here.”
Yes, when that time comes, I’m sure I will gladly choose Heaven. But I think it’s fair to say, when I’m gone, I’m gonna miss this place.