We sat in the middle of the floor like three points in a triangle. String lights gave the room a soft glow. We ate ice cream straight out of the carton with plastic spoons. It was Friday night—roommate night. There was so much to celebrate. A birthday. A successful speech given in speech class. A science test conquered. It was three celebrations in one.
As usual, our conversation bounced between topics like electrons making quantum leaps. Logistics within the quantum world and a conversation between three girls can hold surprising similarities. However, our scattered chatter soon rested on a favorite topic—heaven.
Our topic of choice may sound strange, but most young adults think about death more often than they like to admit. We were no different, except we liked to focus on the good part—the part right after death. The truth is—in our room at college—heaven never seemed far from any conversation. The three of us were a trio this way. Heaven tugged at our thoughts and poked at random moments.
“Do you think there will be new colors in heaven?”
“Oh, I think so,” Charity, my roommate with eyes the color of 70% semisweet chocolate, said as she reached the bottom of the ice cream container with her spoon.
“Excellent source of protein,” she read from the side of the container. “Hmmm, nineteen grams.”
I reached for the carton and took another spoonful. Who can argue with protein?
Charity paused, her spoonful of chocolate Halo Top suspended in midair.
“What do you think the food will be like in heaven?”
We thought about the question for a while, savoring the ice cream and trying to imagine food that would taste better. I caught the look of wistfulness in my roommates’ eyes and knew that my eyes matched theirs.
“I don’t know,” Holly, my roommate with the mild Massachusetts accent, said as she scraped the bottom of the ice cream container. “But it’s gonna be great, guys.”
Though the ice cream ran out, thoughts of heaven continued. And so did the conversations.
Two days later, I sat in a folding chair in a gymnasium. It was Easter Sunday. A Sunday school teacher with a lanky frame and gray hair that stuck up in a cowlick stood on the free throw line of the gym floor, holding his speaking notes with both hands.
“The resurrection gives us hope of our own future resurrection,” he read.
I shifted in my chair, trying to picture abstract thoughts. What did hope look like anyway? What did it smell like? Feel like? Taste like? What did it sound like?
To me, a Jack Russell terrier expectantly cocking her head outside a glass sliding door looked like hope. Hope looked like the bright green of lettuce leaves poking up through dirt still chilly with winter or like the yellow glow of the porchlight left on after dark. Fresh bread in the oven smelled like hope. Hope tasted like frosting on the spatula when the cake sits in the fridge, waiting for dinner. Hope felt like the excitement of counting the dwindling days until my science class ended.
I kept thinking about it—on the way home from church, through lunch, climbing the stairs to my dorm room. What were the ingredients of hope? It contained wistfulness, yes, but confidence too—confidence that the science class would end, that spring would come, that the glow of the porchlight meant someone would be waiting for you.
Hope for the Christian held the confidence that heaven was real and that good things were ahead. Hope seemed to be all tangled up with faith the more I thought about it. My mind couldn’t quite pull them apart.
Heaven. Eternal joy. Confidence. Wistfulness. Sure hope. All the words were swirling when I got back to my room, feeling stuffed from Sunday lunch. A full mind and belly called for a nap. I was almost asleep when the door flew open, and the lights were flipped on for an impeccable entrance. Charity bounced in with her usual charisma. Her friend, Paulina, came too.
The blanket I’d hung on my bunkbed blocked most of the light, but the noise came in loud and clear. I pulled a blanket over my head. My brain felt fuzzy with sleep. I could hear dresser drawers opening as Charity dived for a change of clothes.
“You know the crazy part?” Charity asked, her mid-stream conversation unchecked by wardrobe decisions. “The day that I die will be a good day. I mean, like the best day because I’ll see heaven.”
Paulina said something, but my blanket muffled the soft words. I pulled it away from my face to hear better.
I heard Charity’s closet door screech when she opened it. The room was quiet for a moment except for the sound of shuffling hangers.
“I can’t wait until we’re all together there.” Charity said. “It’s gonna be so good.”
I smiled—too sleepy to separate faith and confidence and wistfulness and desire within the sound of her voice. But something in her words and her tone overflowed and demanded to be shared. I rolled over and closed my eyes. I couldn’t be sure what that something was. But to my ears it sounded like hope.