by Elizabeth Newell
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.'”
Revelation 21:1-3 (ESV)
In mid-November 2008, I found myself in a little van driving through the hills of Tuscany. Four other students and I were on a field trip for a class on medieval monasticism, visiting three different monasteries along a pilgrim route that stretches from Canterbury to Rome. It was early morning, and we had already been to one monastery and were on our way to the second as we sailed through patches of fog and sunshine. Then, I can hardly even begin to describe what we saw; my words cannot begin to do it justice. My friend Caroline, sitting behind me, gasped, “What is that?” For a minute, it seemed as though heaven was descending. At first, I wasn’t sure whether or not we were witnessing something miraculous, but there was a city (or town) that seemed suspended in mid-air above the fog. We realized, as we drove a little farther and after our professor pulled over, that the fog was so dense, it was hiding the mountain that the town crowned. It was eerie; our first glimpse of the town was a church steeple hanging in the mist.
Now, I don’t normally go on field trips to foreign countries, but last semester was special. Fall semester 2008, I had the pleasure of studying for three and a half months in the beautiful hillside town of Orvieto, Italy. Aside from being the most extraordinary experience of my life to date, it was a great time of learning, both academically and spiritually, and a time that God used to give me an anticipation of glory. The more I traveled throughout Italy, the more excited I became about heaven. Seeing churches covered in frescoes and mosaics of Christ in Glory, gazing upwards at basilicas that reach out to touch the hand of God, and being surrounded by a countryside like Umbria and Tuscany, it is hard not to get excited about the glory that we will find ourselves surrounded by one day. It’s hard not to be eager when what we see as heaven on earth does not even compare to what is waiting.
Heaven had never been something I had thought about much. I think it’s something that we don’t always want to think about because heaven tends to draw out thoughts on eternity, which can be, frankly, a bit scary. So perhaps we push them away, and heaven becomes lost among the grocery list and that meeting that we’re late to. We get so busy that the tangible heaven becomes the wishful ideal. Heaven is our future, but what about our present? What would it look like if we lived as though heaven was our future?
(Editor’s Note: At by design, it is our mission to train women to serve and influence others for Christ. I hope this edition of Woman to Woman helps you do just that. If so, please share this with the important women in your life. You can sign up to receive the Woman to Woman eNewsletter before it is available on the blog.
This year we are reprising some of our favorite Summer Sampler articles from previous years. This article was originally published in 2009.)
Elizabeth Newell is currently working toward an MA in Counseling and Religion at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary in Hamilton, MA, with a goal of working in a school as an adjustment counselor. Since traveling to Italy, she has had the pleasure of spending time in both France and Japan, continuing her love for travel and other cultures. She (still) is a self-proclaimed coffee addict, loves spending time with her family, friends, to read, cook, and meandering through the best city [*cough*Boston*cough*] in the continental USA.