Last Monday night (actually, it was mostly early Tuesday morning), my mom and I were waiting for my grandpa in the Bradley terminal at LAX. (Bradley is the international terminal, and my grandpa was coming in on a flight from Peru.)
Midnight is a kind of slow time in the terminal, so there weren't a whole lot of people waiting there, but enough to provide for some people-watching.
Several people in the terminal came bearing gifts. A couple had flowers (one of which was a whole big potted orchid); some had balloons.
We didn't have anything except an earnest desire to see my grandpa safe and sound and back in the car coming home.
As I watched the homecomings and thought about other homecomings I've witnessed (I love people-watching at airports, except when it gets really sad), I couldn't help but think that the flowers and plants and balloons and things were superfluous. Those things inevitably get put down or shoved aside in a flurry of hugs and kisses and tears, as the relevant parties enjoy just being with each other.
It made me think about what a precious thing being with can be. Talking on the phone or having pictures is one thing when you're away from home, but it can never match the reality of being with. And no matter how well you know someone you love or how often you talk with them from a distance, there is something deeply good and satisfying about being with after one has been away.
For about the last six months (at least), I've been working on memorizing John 14. (Yeah, it's not going too quickly :-]) It's that beautiful chapter where Jesus says "I go to prepare a place for you."
But He doesn't say very much about the place.
I know that there are passages in Revelation and elsewhere that talk about the streets of gold and the trees and the pearly gates. It seems like sometimes we get stuck on these things. People like to think about rewards and treasures in the hereafter, and there are plenty of world religions (Islam comes strongly to mind) each offering a different package of heavenly incentives.
But the gold and pearls -- even the absence of death or pain -- weren't what was important in Jesus' description:
Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.
He doesn't offer us things. He offers us Himself.
What an incredible thing for the Creator of the universe to say "I want you to be where I am."
So, I don't think there will be any balloons or flowers or "Welcome home!" signs in Heaven. We won't need them. Or want them. We'll be too busy being with Jesus.