There are facts about my story that will never change this side of heaven, barring total tragedy in some cases. And forgive me for saying so, but while the permanence of many things in this life is blessed, that same permanence can also be awful.

FACT: I will always have my two children. Praise Jesus, and also holy hell. Until the day I die, I will always be worried about them, responsible for them, and expected to put their needs before my own. The full weight of this appointment as “parent” is overwhelming. And again, excluding some unspeakable event, this will always be the case. Literally. Every day of however long my forever turns out to be, I will be physically and emotionally cuffed to these jokers.

FACT: Despite good medication, I will always deal with bouts of depression.

FACT: I will always have lupus. Sure, this disease might cool its jets every now and again, but I will always be a servant to it — in mind, body, and lifestyle — worried of its terrible capabilities if I shift my gaze. I must pay constant care to rudimentary things like sun exposure, too much stress, not enough sleep, etc.

FACT: I will always be married to my husband. Alllways. I am in it, God willing, for better or worse, till death do us part. When I married Alex some five years ago, I thought wistfully to myself, “I’ll always be married to this man.” Now, for the first time in our marriage, that same utterance can feel daunting: I will always be married to this man.

Let me be clear: my husband is a top-shelf stud muffin who is impossibly good to me. It’s me you should be worried about.

FACT: I am — always have been — a nearly ambitious sinner. Aren’t we all (yes, you).

That sin, combined with my personality, makes me your typical anywhere-but-here girl. I like newness, change, a challenge.

Ten years ago I would have amputated my own legs to finally find my husband. Now I have him. And I can’t help, from time to time, but deeply long for the freedom and the unfettered possibility of my single days. I sometimes get caught in daydreams of past guys I used to hold dear, imagining what may have happened if the timing were right. How would my life be different? I think about people like Ryan Gosling and also that time I ran into Jake Gyllenhaal hiking at Solstice Canyon. What if he had noticed me? What if I had actually spoken to him? Would that have led us into a cinema-worthy romance with butterflies, aching, slow-mo smooches, and golden hour lighting? Probably.

What if… What if… What if…

I love my husband profoundly, but there is this grief that has crept into our relationship regarding the blessed/awful permanence of being committed to one person, forever. Of course this permanence is a gift in all of the obvious ways. But I find myself having a hard time letting go of all the premarital newness I’ll never have again. I will never be wanted and swept away by him for no other reason than my charm and my devastatingly good looks. I’ll never get to chitchat with my gal pals about my new guy, or parse the hidden subtext of all our social media interactions. We’ll never have another first kiss, or a first hand-hold, or a first I love you. All of those extraordinary events are behind us.

There are some practical measures to take here, I’m aware. First, a large dose of gratitude. Stop reading US Weekly with such reverence. And also the husband and I are working to be more intentional about connecting at the end of the day, dating each other, having these difficult conversations, and adventuring on a more regular basis. These are small steps that will go a long way to be sure. But the real problem most likely lies here: this man — my man — knows too much about me. I used to want that. But being known, really known, has obliterated that awesome element of mystery, and it has left me repulsively exposed. When our actual selves inevitably come spewing to the surface, we can’t just cut and run. Because, VOWS. And also I love him.

I think this is what they call “sanctification,” but I’m not going willingly.

These are just five of my many facts. And there are clearly some deep heart issues at work. We look for things like satisfaction, escape, control, and acceptance in a world that is incapable of fully providing it — with or without a Gosling, shirtless and serving me fried chicken and margaritas in Mexico with someone like Marvin Gaye crooning from the surround sound. Hey girl…

We look for fulfillment in having children, or finding our “soul mates,” our good health, our looks, and no matter how close we get to all those things, there sooner or later comes a sobering moment when we realize that we are still perilously thirsty for more, surrounded and yet thoroughly alone. These are real and painful longings. There are needs and desires inside of me (ones I don’t even know how to put words to) that neither brand-new-Alex, well-behaved kids, firm thighs, nor any other long-shot could ever fully satisfy. Because in truth, it isn’t a healthy body, a childless life, or a boyfriend on-the-side that I long for. I am convinced that what I — what we all — want is something we already had, long, long ago: paradise and, thanks to Jesus, eternity.

Oh sure we get dazzling glimpses of that paradise here and now. But in actual heaven, all these awful cravings for real, lasting beauty and satisfaction will be more than fulfilled. Scotty Smith wrote on his prayer blog, “Lord Jesus, the more we ponder our eternal future with you, the more our hearts are filled with peace, joy, and hope. The deepest desires you’ve written into our DNA, our most intense longings for relationships and intimacy, and the insatiable thirst we carry for a world devoid of evil and filled with beauty… they’ll all find their fulfillment in the life to come.”

Oh come, Lord Jesus.

God promises to us in scripture that there is also beauty to be wrought in the waiting for eternity, in grappling with the pain and the struggle of this present life. It stands to reason therefore that the relatively basic rub of something like marriage or kids — the back-and-forth friction between gratitude and resentment — could also turn into something lovely, something movie-worthy in its own right. Something heavenly. A story of failure, helplessness, and then divine rescue. And the wonder of everyday I do’s must amount to something precious. Something like the blessed, anything-but-awful permanence of the forever I do’s we have from Christ in his steadfast pursuit of us. (From my permanence-averse perspective, this is supremely remarkable.)

Call me a downer, but I do not believe it is possible to be totally fulfilled in this life. Yet there is something oddly comforting in facing the actual fact of our insatiable appetites. Acknowledging this frees us from that oh-so-wearying pursuit; a pursuit that leaves me exhausted, hardened, dead, and threatens to swallow me alive. No, not even Ryan Gosling can quench all the thirst we’ve got; we can put down the hunt and soldier on. We can lay it all down at the feet of the one who keeps on coming with the I do, I do, I do’s.

This is our very real hope in the now. But on my anywhere-but-here days when Alex is late from work and I have play-dough caked underneath every last fingernail, the hope of a certain future in heaven is my only way through.

One of my favorite shows of the last year was Dark on Netflix. It’s a dark (go figure), German, sci-fi story about missing children and time travel. In one scene the protagonist, desperate to change the past, to make things better, discovers a time portal. Jonas enters an elaborate cave, moves through it, and then comes out the same entrance but 30 years earlier. The scene is chilling. Everything outside of the cave is similar but still different. Familiar, yet altogether changed. And there is the hope, at least, that wrong could be made right for Jonas. This is what I imagine entering heaven will be like.

Like thousands of lanterns
Glowing with grace
In glorious silence
Descending through space
To a friend
A sister in need
Who is not alone

A new heaven, a new earth, but instead of 30 years earlier we will be now, only perfect, peaceful, at rest. This is the soundtrack as Jonas walks from the darkness of the cave into this new world. Listen to it in full. It is magic. And it sounds to me a lot like heaven:

There is a marvelous lightness — actual weightlessness — that runs all the way through my fingertips when I ponder the time when all of this will be no more. Shameless. Wild. Free. Amazing grace, pouring down. When there will be nothing more to yearn for, no need unmet. As Sandra McCracken sings, “We will feast in the house of Zion, we will sing with our hearts restored.” Without heaven, I don’t know where those of us who have lost loved ones, or people who live in chronic poverty, or have committed an unspeakable offense find their true hope. Life is relentless for every last one of us. “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation.” Heaven means lasting peace, abundant joy. Broken relationships: healed. Unresolved relationships: contented. Broken bodies: made new. This depressive darkness will turn to light, and I will actually be capable of basking in that light — bare skin and SPF-free. “We will feast and weep no more.” Beauty upon beauty upon beauty that our elementary minds cannot even comprehend.

FACT: Heaven is for people like me: grinding through their own sin, wrestling even with God’s goodness, self-sabotaging (and writing about it for the public no less), but who in this present life — by the severe grace of God — wakes up every morning with first a vertical, then a horizontal I do.

Welcome. Welcome. Welcome.