Recently, my five-year-old son found out he was going to die and he was very upset about it. He wasn't dying any sooner than the average kindergartener, but he had become aware that he would, in fact, like everyone else (save a couple of men from the Bible), die. His agony over the thought would make anyone believe that his death was imminent. In fact, he bawled inconsolably every time the subject was brought up--and he was the only one bringing it up. His sisters tried their best to tell him not to worry about it, but it didn't help. They even tried to encourage him by telling him about going to heaven and being with Jesus, but he was still despondent. "I don't want to go to heaven!" he would protest and then beg to get to stay 5 forever. Several times over the next couple of weeks, events would trigger this thought in his mind again and it would take several minutes to calm him down.
I had several rounds with him on the subject, and nothing seemed to pacify his mind. "We don't have to be afraid of dying," I'd say "God will take care of us." "I don't want to die!" he'd repeat. When he begged me to let him stay 5 or even, "go back to 4," I'd try to remind him of the many things he'd never be "big enough" to do. No deal. I tried to tell him how beautiful and awesome heaven would be and how he'll get to meet Noah and Moses and Daniel, but he just wanted to "stay here." We were all becoming exhausted by his preoccupation.
Finally, during one of these circular discussions, one of his responses gave me a clue to help settle his young soul on the issue. "I don't want to go to heaven; I want to stay here with y'all!" I explained to him that we would not be here forever, and that one day we would be in heaven, too. "So, we'll be in heaven together," I explained. I could see the peace sweep through him. He wasn't upset about going to heaven; his five-year-old mind has very little capacity for understanding what heaven will be like. (In all fairness, so does mine.) What upset him was the thought of being separated from the ones he loved. The fact is, that's what is most appealing about heaven. It's being united in perfect fellowship with the One we long to know more but can't yet. It's about the community of saints coming together with the One who sanctified them. It's the bride being joined to the Bridegroom.
One of the worst things about this cursed world is broken relationships. The divisions among mankind wreak havoc--breaking hearts, destroying lives, and tearing apart families, communities, or even nations. This brokenness touches the life of everyone who walks this planet and it can leave us feeling lost and alone. The Church is intended to provide a little bit of heaven on earth--a taste of divine fellowship. We are not perfect and the Church often reflects our individual brokenness, but we seek to love each other as Christ commanded us. The fact is, we need each other. Facing this broken world is a daunting task, we need all the help we can get. That's why God through his Word instructs us not to forsake the assembly. We need to be connected in order to "bear one another's burdens"
Even as young children we crave and depend on life lived in community. Some of us forget about the need for community. Independence is often praised and encouraged. Many of us have been burned by community and we're not ready to open ourselves up to receiving those wounds again. But to refuse to assemble ourselves with friends and family is to refuse a taste of heaven.
Who do you need to connect with again today? Maybe it's time to buy them a cup of coffee?