What do you think of when you hear the words, Battle Creek, Michigan? Those words transport me back to my childhood. That’s the place where many dreams were realized. I can’t tell you how many envelopes I sent to a post office box there as a kid. Until recently I’d never been there. Two weeks ago that changed.
I was in the midst of what I’m calling, “Fast & Furious 3” and making my third cross-country trip in the last year. I was heading to Denver, Colo., with a friend. We were delivering a car to my daughter’s boyfriend. Along the way we stopped in Cleveland and Detroit and then headed west. Traveling toward Chicago on Interstate 94, I saw a sign noting the famous site where many a childhood dream was made.
Battle Creek is the city where both W.K. Kellogg and C.W. Post launched their breakfast-cereal lines. For kids like me growing up in the sixties and seventies, the cereal boxes often contained gift offers. By sending in a few box tops, you could snag a toy car, airplane or some other cool gift. It was a like the North Pole to me and Tony the Tiger was Santa Claus.
We didn’t actually stop. It was dark and rainy as we passed through. Yet it was pretty cool to be that close. Despite the fact that we didn’t see it, I did learn from Google that it got its name from a skirmish at the river. Col. John Mullet and two Potawotamie Indians fought it out there. It was known as Battle Creek after that.
I mention this because I am in the middle of a study about heaven. As I was thinking about Battle Creek and how I had imagined this place I’d never been, it dawned on me that we do the same thing with heaven. We catch a few glimpses into what heaven is like in Scripture. Yet none of us have even been there. So we can only imagine what it will be like, if and when we get there.
I love the song “I Can Only Imagine,” by the Christian group Mercy Me. The song was featured in a major motion picture that came out last year. It tells the story of Bart Millard, the group’s leader, and how he came to write the song. At his father’s funeral Bart shares a glimpse into what might lie ahead for all of us in heaven.
He says, “I can only imagine what it will be like when I walk by your side. I can only imagine what my eyes will see when your face is before me. I can only imagine. Surrounded by your glory what will my heart feel? Will I dance for you Jesus or will in awe of you be still? Will I stand in your presence or to my knees will I fall? Will I sing hallelujah? Will I be able to sing at all? I can only imagine.”
Every once in a while we get a glimpse of heaven. We pass through whenever we feel the touch of God upon our lives. I think it happens when love is shared. I believe we feel it when grace is experienced. There is no doubt we see it when forgiveness is offered. It is in these moments that God comes to us and wraps his arms around us. No need to imagine it. To me, that is what heaven will be like.
The Rev. Cal Lord is pastor of Central Baptist Church in Westerly.