“watching Avatar made me long for Heaven
– if James Cameron can envision that kind of world for Pandora,
what has God created for us in Heaven??
(Sarah Gale Evers’ facebook status on 8 January 2010)
Nothing within me wanted to see the movie AVATAR. It looked like Aliens meets Roger Rabbit meets Star Trek, and I’m not really a sci-fi person. But Mike saw it one night when he was out with the guys, and he was sure I’d love it. So, despite my initial misgivings, I trusted my husband and we went to see Avatar with his parents when they were in town in the beginning of January.
It was an uncharacteristically cold day in Orlando with blustery winds. I nearly ran the thirty yards from the parking lot to the theatre so I wouldn’t freeze, even in my long sleeves and sweater. With my “light wrap” warming me, I settled into my cushy chair, obediently silenced my cell phone, and donned my oh-so-stylish yellow-framed 3D glasses as I hunkered down to endure the long (nearly 3 hours!) movie.
But what a surprise awaited me!
I thought the film was visually stunning
, though the storyline was a classic Hollywood formula. It was predictable and canned, a tale we’ve seen a hundred times wrapped up in different time periods with varying leading men. But I’ve never seen effects like these, and this wasn’t the 3D of my youth with ill-fitting paper glasses and red and blue lenses. This, to me, was a whole new genre of computer graphics and animation combined with live acting. It was no where near Roger Rabbit. I was so off on that analogy! (Click here to watch the official movie trailer)
I walked out into the chill of Orlando after watching AVATAR in awe. I just wanted to stay there, in Pandora, to explore and delight in this clean, fresh, connected Utopia. As I hurried to the restaurant for dinner, my thoughts swirled around heaven, God and my Dad. “What is Pops seeing and experiencing right now?” I wondered.
Wikipedia says Director James Cameron (of Titanic fame) developed the initial script in 1995, but film technology hadn’t developed enough to achieve his vision at that time. Can you imagine the challenge of trying to explain these visual effects to movie-goers in the same year Die Hard with a Vengeance was released? Our language and experience in the mid ’90s was simply inadequate for the job.
James Cameron isn’t the first person to struggle to explain the visions he’s seen. The Apostle John had that same challenge. As I walked out of AVATAR, I thought about John, who, after glimpsing heaven tried to describe it in Revelation in terms people could understand.
Here’s one of John’s “easier” descriptions of heaven from Revelation 4.6: “Also before the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.”
What comes to your mind with this one from Revelation 4.2-3: “At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne.” ?
What a task John had! Can you imagine trying to translate a vision like that into vocabulary for your contemporaries, or for his contemporaries? I used to imagine heaven’s “streets of gold” in a Fort Knox meets the yellow-brick road kind of way. But I now I’m applying some of the visually stunning scenery from the planet Pandora to my heavenly imaginings. Perhaps those “streets of gold” have a luminous quality to them like the fields through which our movie heroes play and roam.
John has some pretty funky descriptions of living creatures in heaven, too. Those descriptions had me envisioning some rather scary beings, but after seeing some of the animals in Avatar with their multiple limbs and eyes, I now wonder if those heavenly creatures might make beautiful sense when I see them with my own eyes.
I’ve allowed my imagination and the English language to limit my view of heaven to a place that’s less desirable, certainly less beautiful, than this current earth! Here my heart soars when I come across a gorgeous stretch of field, the flowers bending and bowing in the breeze, or an ocean view as wave upon wave crashes upon the sandy shore. I pause to admire sunsets with ever-changing colors as hues intensify and fade into the next shade. Does God delight in these expressions of beauty, too? He created this world full of gravity, tides, light refractions and the color-spectrum! I don’t think the beauty of our earth was an accident or a by-product of good farming, ecology and environmentalism. I think it was part of God’s original, intended design! And if James Cameron and his crew can imagine such rich, luminous and unexpected beauty for the fictional planet of Pandora, then I can only imagine what breath-taking beauty God has in store for us in heaven!
However, it is written, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” ~ 1 Corinthians 2.9