Heaven, it has been said1, is not a hallway of mirrors. That would be more like a freakish hell than a heavenly bliss. You, you, nobody but you. Seeing nothing, hearing nothing, but you, you, you, for all eternity.
Such a world would be joyless agony. Our own experiences bear witness to this truth. Our greatest joy does not come by living in a hallway of mirrors with our eyes fixed on ourselves.
Instead, our greatest joys in life are coupled with moments of self-forgetfulness.
Perhaps it was seeing your wife-to-be walking down the aisle. Perhaps it was the birth of your firstborn. Perhaps it was being reunited with an old friend, watching 120 brumbies charging by and shaking the earth beneath your feet or standing at the edge of a great canyon or a roaring sea.
The moments that thrill us most are moments when we forget ourselves and find our hearts enthralled by something outside of ourselves.
This is the difference that love makes. Love is not pre-occupied with thy self but with thy neighbour. Love is not satisfying our own needs, but aiming to satisfy the simple needs of others.
Love counts others to be worthy.
Paradoxically, this is the way of true joy. Joy and blessing are the rewards we receive when we forget ourselves and seek the good of others.
The supreme example of this is Jesus, who, for the joy set before Him endures the cross (Hebrews 12:2).
“Have this mind among yourselves that is yours in Christ Jesus, who… made Himself nothing… and humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:5-8)
It was also this mind that invited an unusual and somewhat unworthy gaggle of fishermen to gather around and share a meal with Him on the night of His greatest loneliness and grief.
At that table, which table we sit at from week to week, Jesus puts forward bread and wine as symbols of His own sacrificial love. He lays the table for our joy. He gives Himself for our joy.
While we were yet sinners He invited us to the table to share in His Life.
He counted us as worthy. We had done nothing to deserve it. It was all from Jesus in life-giving and liberating love. A love that now teaches us to count ourselves as nothing for the sake of the one sitting beside us.
This is the joyful, self-forgetful life of a citizen in the kingdom of heaven. It is a life where what we do does not spring from selfish ambition or conceit, but from humility, as we count others more significant than ourselves (Philippians 2:3).
As a way of life, this seems impossible to the selfish heart – which hearts we all have apart from grace.
But, if by the Spirit of Grace we are able to find one thing we can do for the person beside us today; one kind word, one thoughtful deed, we will have moved both us and them closer to the joy of living self-forgetful lives for Jesus.