Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.
— Luke 17:21
KINGDOM OF HEAVEN. The reign of harmony….
— Mary Baker Eddy
When I was in high school, I had a little daydream that I cherished.
It began at a scholar bowl tournament somewhere in southern Illinois. I can’t remember the exact location, but I was standing outside a classroom somewhere, waiting for a game to start, when my thought was suddenly filled by a vision of a much older me, teaching high-school English and coaching a scholar bowl team of my own.
The image brought with it such a glorious sense of peace and joy that I took special care to file it neatly in my consciousness so I could find it again if I needed it.
I kept that dream close at hand for the next few years, working toward it throughout college, taking it out and looking at it when life seemed too challenging, and savoring the feeling of rightness and comfort and delight that always seemed to accompany it.
Then I spent a year teaching in north St. Louis County, and the experience was so miserable that it deflated the dream and left it languishing silently in a dustbin somewhere in the back of my thought.
The dream crept back into my thought so quietly this weekend that I scarcely noticed it at first.
Our scholar bowl team had a tournament Saturday. I’ve been helping the coach all semester, so she invited me to come along and help supervise the kids.
I expected to enjoy the tournament. But I didn’t expect what happened next.
The moderator for our first game was young and bright and knew the game backwards and forwards. I knew, even before I asked, that he had spent a lot of time behind a buzzer himself, and I thought of the happy hours some of my friends and I had spent moderating tournaments to help out our old coaches after we graduated.
I didn’t catch on at first, but as I watched the game, a flicker of familiar joy slipped across my consciousness like a smile from a long-lost friend.
During our second game, we had the opportunity to play in a classroom where the teacher’s love for the profession, the kids, and life in general seemed to radiate from every surface.
That classroom — and, really, the entire school — expressed such joy and enthusiasm that it made me happy just to be there. And although I still didn’t grasp what was happening, as I sat in that room, I felt that old, familiar happiness spreading through my system.
If I’m understanding Jesus’ words correctly, the “kingdom of heaven” isn’t a location in space or time. It’s a location in consciousness — a place within us where we are aware of nothing except peace, joy, and love.
I’ve not yet reached the point of dwelling perpetually in the kingdom of heaven. But every now and then, I catch a glimpse of it.
I caught a glimpse this weekend.
If I can hang onto it, work should be very, very different next week. But even if I can’t, I’ll know it’s there, waiting for me to find it again.