We’ve all been asked the question, “if you won the lottery, what would you do?” It’s a way of trying to get to what it is we really want, our unique recipe for happiness. Sure, there’s a subtle lie in there that what we really want is unlocked with more money, but it starts to reveal what we crave.
Jesus knows the true answer to each of our cravings, and in John 14:1-6 He not only reassures us that our cravings can be satisfied, but also tells us what we need to do to receive that complete satisfaction.
I am the Way, the Truth and the LifeJesus said to his disciples:‘Do not let your hearts be troubled.Trust in God still, and trust in me.There are many rooms in my Father’s house;if there were not, I should have told you.I am going now to prepare a place for you,and after I have gone and prepared you a place,I shall return to take you with me;so that where I amyou may be too.You know the way to the place where I am going.’Thomas said, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’ Jesus said:‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.No one can come to the Father except through me.’
Our own “room” in Heaven
Jesus says “There are many rooms in my Father’s house; if there were not, I should have told you. I am going now to prepare a place for you.”
Think about what it means to have “your own room”. You get to choose what’s in there and what isn’t. An artist, a musician, a scientist and a reader will each have very different things in their rooms, based on their interests, preferences and passions. What I believe Jesus is telling us is that Heaven will provide the same (yet better) experience – a space made just for you, tailored to your personal interests, preferences and passions.
Your “room in Heaven” becomes a manifestation of everything you’re truly craving. Unending joy, unbridled happiness, no pain, no worry, no stress – just complete and total satisfaction. For those of you who dream of the perfect house, perfect landscape, perfect day, perfect meal, perfect anything – that is what Jesus is preparing for you in Heaven. Remember, He knows you and your longings even better than you do – making Him the master designer of the perfect place that is tailored perfectly and individually for you.
For me – that “room” is one where I get to be with those I love, enjoying His creation (the sea, the mountains, forest trails, lakes reflecting the mountains and sky, maybe even the desert…in a more friendly and less “everything here can hurt you” kind of way). It’s a place where I can continue learning and understanding more and more. I will sit quietly, taking it all in, pondering it all.
What about yours? Your vision will be as motivating for you as the above is for me…but remember, Jesus will design it even better as He knows you perfectly. These are rooms worth waiting for. They help put into context what we think we “need” in this life, what material things/experiences we think we should strive for.
How foolish it would be to trade away our “perfect room” for things of this world that will never satisfy! We must be willing to delay our gratification and say no to the obstacles between us and the real treasure that awaits.
Jesus is “the Way”
In response to Thomas’ question, Jesus makes it clear that He is the way to this room. None of us know how many miles sit between us and the end of the road where our room awaits. Focusing on that is pointless, we just can’t know. It could be today, it could be a year from now, it could be fifty years from now. We need to live our lives as if it could end at any moment…and if it did, would we feel we lived in a way to enter that room He prepares for us? Was there anything more we felt we could have done but didn’t?
In visualising the road that ends at each of our prepared rooms, think of Jesus as the road itself. To get where we should certainly want to go, we must stay on that road, never veering. His life, as told through Scripture, provide way-markers where that road might lead – signs like “caution ahead”, “sharp left coming”, etc. Through prayer we get His help in spotting these markers so that we are prepared for what’s to come, so that we can stay on the road.
At times it will be hard. At times the temptations to turn back or to veer away from difficulty will be strong. Our hearts know which way the road is going – we must remember where it is that this road ultimately ends and continue on His way.
Jesus is “the Truth”
What does it mean, “I am the truth”? What if we re-stated that as “My way is not a deception”? What He’s teaching is not meant to deceive us – so anything that may run contrary to His teaching must be, in fact, the real deception. So much of our popular culture runs contrary to His teaching – do we really think that He’s deceiving us and that the “secrets of success” we hear from celebrities is truth?
One of His most challenging teachings (for me, at least) is that of renunciation. Letting go. Detachment. It’s cutting our attachments to things, people – even our very selves – so that they no longer hold a place in our hearts. They no longer captivate our attention. In their place, we unite with Him and His love. This is the opposite of what the world preaches. If we believe Jesus is the Truth, we know which is the lie.
Our human frailty has a very hard time with this. Letting go of things is hard, but many of us have shown the ability to improve here. Letting go of relationships is harder, but as those of us who have lost a loved one in our lives has learned that it’s possible.
What about letting go of our very selves?
Jesus is “the Life”
In Mark 8:35 Jesus says:
For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.
I don’t think He’s just referring to the end of our life on earth, I think He’s also referring to what we need to let go of in order to live the life He made us for – right now. In order to live the Life He intends for us, we need to lose our “selves”. What does this mean?
Thomas Merton (and many others far smarter than me) has written about the concept of a “true self” and a “false self”. I’m going to share my basic understanding of this concept, and would stress that it’s worth looking into further if this is something you feel helps you.
The “true self” is who God made you to be, your pure “you”. Labels don’t apply here – your true self is not an artist, is not shy, is not an introvert or an extrovert, is not a father or an athlete. I like to think of the true self as who we will be in Heaven. This is the self that is stripped away of all attachments, everything that holds us back from experiencing God. This is who Jesus knows perfectly and thirsts for – and wants us to become. This is who He desires to save.
The “false self” is the persona we’ve created. The self that we try to protect, that we try to show off to the world as “who we are”. Think of all the filters we apply when posting our “lives” to social media, this is a perfect illustration of our “false selves” at work. Anytime we’re offended, it’s some aspect of that false self that is threatened. Any label we identify with (athlete, musician, father, teacher, etc.) is connected with the false self. These labels are attached to things that could be taken away, making them no longer apply…yet “we” still exist.
Why is this? Because “we” are our true selves, not this mirage we’ve created and obsessed over in our heads. Just as we deceive others when viewing our Instagram feed about the life we live, beneath that we’re also deceived about “who we are” and what matters in life. This has come from years of conditioning and programming – it’s not actually our own doing – but undoing it is something we can begin the process of.
Take the “athlete” label for example. This is a label that many cling to and want the world to know that this is “who they are”. Many athletes have been through unfortunate and tragic accidents and can no longer be the athlete they were – or perhaps as they aged they realised it wasn’t “them” anymore. So much heartache follows this as if they feel their lives have been taken away. There’s a “death” inside them . Do they no longer exist? Of course not – the label was just a part of the false self that has been stripped away. The death that occurred was part of the false self.
We must be careful when trying to “find ourselves”, as we often get diverted right back to reinforcing or recreating the false self. Instead, we must seek our true self – and the only way to do that is through Jesus and what He teaches us. We must stop looking and start to simply follow Him. You’ll be amazed at what you find when your focus shifts from “me! me! me!” to how you can better love Him, love others around you and serve using the gifts He’s given you. When you disassociate with the labels and the things you used to hold dear you feel lighter and more joyful. This is because the false self is being stripped away and your true self – the part of you that unites with God – is revealed to you and the world. This is when your light shines the brightest.
Only through this willingness to lose it all – to let go of it all – will we find what we’re really after – that union with God.
Let not our hearts be troubled
This process can be scary, it can be hard, it can be confusing. In all things, we must “not let our hearts be troubled”, as Jesus reminds us in the beginning of this gospel.
With “our rooms” awaiting us, let us find the conviction and commitment to endure whatever is on our road. With daily habits of reading, prayer and the examen, let us improve in spotting those way-markers for the road we’re on and become more aware of when we’re starting to veer off course.
As we do this, it becomes easier and more joyful to shed the attachments that weigh our souls down and keep us from fully embracing – and being embraced by – God.