Americans are nodding in agreement. Canadians are confused. Australians are scratching their heads unsure if they should be offended by such words spoken by an Aussie. Yes, it’s a provocative headline, but it’s true. As I pass the two year anniversary of arriving in these United States, it’s the best way I can sum up the past 24 months. Please allow me to explain.
In February 2012 our family of 5 (which included 3 children aged 5 and younger) had just sold or given away almost everything we owned and said “Goodbye” to family and friends. We took our remaining 10 suitcases on a journey of more than 10,000 miles that took over 24-hours of travel time to arrive at our destination. We had never been to America before. And my soon to be boss and work colleagues? Men and women we had never met. It was a great leap into the unknown. Although a leap my wife and I felt with every fiber of our being was the will of God.
I do wish I could say I never doubted our decision, but that isn’t true. There was a moment, maybe for 10 seconds, as our plane was lifting off the runway in Melbourne when I asked myself, “What in the world are you doing?” I knew at that point there was no turning back. In a flash I worried, “Would we make friends?” “Would my wife feel safe and enjoy our new home?” “Did I have the ability to perform the tasks my new role would entail?” It was then that I recalled the words of one who has since become a dear friend: “We’re just a group of sinners who know they’re in need of God’s grace.” Now that’s a team I was qualified to join. I knew, by God’s grace, we’d be okay.
From the moment we landed my family has been in a dreamy place. Driving from Orlando International Airport we were surrounded by life size versions of the Hot Wheels cars I had played with as a kid (these toys are modeled off American automobile designs, not Australian). For the first time we saw the yellow school buses made famous in Australia by the animated introduction to The Simpsons (Australian school busses are not yellow). My mind wrestled with whether the buildings were real or merely cardboard replicas on a film set as I had only seen American architecture in Hollywood movies. Sitting at my work desk I looked out on squirrels busily running around the gardens and up and down trees—again, scenes I had only previously experienced in animated Disney films.
I’m sure the jet lag initially played a role, but America truly was (and remains) a dreamy place.
Kinda Like Heaven
I’m confident that the new heavens and new earth will be far more similar to our present experience than many Christians are expecting. I’ve not yet met anyone who spends their weekends clothed in white gowns, playing harps, and floating on clouds. I don’t expect to meet anyone doing that in eternity either. Our eternity will be far more similar, far more “earthy” and physical than our gnostic inspired ideas allow. At the same time, if tonight I was translated to this future day, I doubt I could mistake my new location for just another night in Florida. The new heavens and earth will be noticeably dissimilar. It will be better. It won’t be fallen. It’s inhabitants will be without sin. We will see Him as He is.
And that brings me to America. It is very much like Australia. In fact, it’s far more similar than I was expecting. We had not traveled to a totally foreign culture or to a country that speaks another language. For better or worse, Hollywood movies, American sitcoms, and every CSI television spinoff has “Americanized” much of Australia. But while America felt safe, felt “the same,” we constantly had the tension of knowing that it was dissimilar. People spoke differently. We had to drive on the other side of the road. It was now permissible to eat donuts for breakfast. And tipping was not something restricted to only high end restaurants.
So maybe it’s not the best illustration, but coming to America has something in common with how I imagine the new heavens and earth will be—similar and dissimilar at the same time.
Moving to America has meant my childhood toys came alive. Everyday experiences were dreamy, giving me the sense that I had jumped inside my television set (think Mike Teavee from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). I’ve walked around aware that America was very similar, yet at the same time very dissimilar to Australia. So, yeah—after two years here this Aussie is convinced America is a dreamy place that’s kinda like heaven.