I used to think about heaven in a one-dimensional way. I’d imagine staring at the beatific vision as if I was staring at a single image. A picture of God veiled by light, eternally just beyond my grasp. I’d get a sinking feeling. Is that really it? Would I spent eternity gazing at God the way that I would look at the Mona Lisa, peering closer and closer into the mystery of her smile – trying to see the meaning of the world in her pursed lips?

Then, one day, at The Acton Institute’s annual summer program, I heard author Peter Kreeft say this: In heaven, we will each have our own view of God and spend eternity in conversation, sharing what we’re learning and forever piecing together the full image of God’s glory.

This version of heaven was far more exciting. I suddenly imagined myself the owner of a sprawling high-desert ranch in the sky, within walking distance of John Henry Newman’s writing nook, and around the corner from The Eagle and Child pub, where I could pull up a chair with Tolkein and Lewis as they gather for all eternity to craft their internal visions into external stories.

Since then, I’ve wondered how true a scene like this could be. Was Kreeft just being his usual witty self, or is there some substance to the idea?

There definitely is, and it follows the logic of personal vocation.

Each of us has a unique calling.

A personal vocation is an individual call directly from God to accomplish a specific thing with our lives. As John Henry Newman said:

“God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission. I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good; I shall do His work.”

A personal vocation sets us on the path of our own heroic journey, that incorporates our state in life, our talents, and our mission to serve the lives of others that are right in front of us. It’s the specific path in which we come to know ourselves and reach our personal fulfillment.

From my background in creative services, I like to think of our individual calling as our divine origin story. When God made us, He had in mind certain challenges and opportunities on earth, and formulated an intervention strategy. With a specific commission in mind, He crafted a unique genetic code, which shaped our soul and is manifest onto our fingertips. He then commands us to use our hands—our unique talent and characteristics—to do the handiwork of our own vocation.

Each of us has a unique relationship with God.

A personal vocation is a framework for how we see the world and act in it. It’s also a unique lens through which we see God and interact with Him.

George MacDonald, a Scottish fantasy writer and minister, wrote in his famous essay The New Name: “This or that man may understand God more, may understand God better than he, but no other man can understand God as he understands him.”

MacDonald explained that God spoke each person into existence by pronouncing our unique name. It’s a name that is related to our specific role in redemption and provides the personal character of our vocation.

MacDonald explains that the new name “expresses the character, the nature, the being, the meaning of the person who bears it. It is the man’s own symbol,–his soul’s picture, in a word,–the sign which belongs to him and to no one else.”

Luke Burgis and Dr. Joshua Miller expound on this eloquently in their book Unrepeatable: Cultivating the Unique Calling of Every Person. They say: “Each person sees Jesus’s face in a unique way, and each is united to him in a way that no other person has been or ever will be.”

Each of us must share our unique understanding of God with each other.

Our vocation compels us to share our vision of God with others. In our personal relationship with God, we attain an understanding of Him that only we can teach. It’s not a general truth about Him, it is a personal truth about Him, like a bunch of people exploring a terrain in different directions, then regrouping to report back what each has seen and piecing together a larger picture.

Burgis and Miller put it this way: “Every baptized Christian has a responsibility to manifest that aspect of Christ’s infinitely rich personality, which only he has experienced, to the rest of creation.”

And MacDonald takes it further: “Each will feel the sacredness and awe of his neighbour’s dark and silent speech with his God. Each will regard the other as a prophet, and look to him for what the Lord hath spoken…. Each will behold in the other a marvel of revelation, a present son or daughter of the Most High, come forth from him to reveal him afresh. In God each will draw nigh to each.”

Our calling unfolds for eternity.

Our name will be fully revealed to us in heaven. And the ultimate work of our vocation will be to share our unique vision of God for all eternity. In heaven, we will not only discover God unfiltered and His very self, but we will eternally discover one another, sharing our personal stories and entering into the stories of others. We will forever discover the full extent to which God has manifested Himself in the created world, and in each created person.

On earth, a personal vocation leads us to our state in life, our profession and the people God wants us to engage with at a specific time and in a specific place. It is our individual road to salvation. And eventually, the exact note God wants us to play in the beatific symphony.

So, heaven is more like Beethoven than DaVinci. A symphony of interconnected solos. And that’s music to my ears.

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