Several years ago, the apostle John's words describing the tantalizing vision of Heaven that God gave to him on the island of Patmos came to my mind, sharpening the focus of my "dream home." I was in Agra, India, standing in front of a reflecting pool gazing at the spectacular beauty of the Taj Mahal when I remembered John's initial impression of Heaven: "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband" (Rev. 21:1-2). Just as a bride lovingly prepares every detail of herself for her special bridegroom, God is preparing His heavenly home for you and me. This loving preparation is illustrated by the story of the Taj Mahal.

Prepared with Love

The Taj Mahal was prepared as a monument of love. It was built between 1632 and 1653 by Shah Jahan for his wife. Constructed of white marble, it glistens like a jewel on the bank of a wide river. It is framed by four minarets, each one placed at the corner of the red-sandstone platform on which the entire building sits, pointing like long, white fingers to the sky. The exterior of the white-marble structure is inlaid with black onyx in flowing script depicting quotes from the Koran. The interior, including walls and ceiling, is inlaid with semiprecious stones in floral designs that are symbols of the Islamic paradise.

How can one imagine the painstaking craftsmanship involved in completing a project that required over twenty thousand skilled workers and took more than twenty years to complete? How can one imagine the love that conceived such a project in the first place? Even more remarkable is the fact that the Taj Mahal was intentionally designed not as a palace or as a summer residence or even as an elaborate boathouse. The Taj Mahal is a tomb! It was built by the lavishly romantic and wealthy shah for his beloved wife, to whom he'd been married for only fourteen years when she was overtaken by the great equalizer--death. It's sad to think that although his wife was buried in this exquisite edifice, when the shah died, he was not allowed to be buried with her.

If one Indian ruler could prepare something as breathtakingly beautiful as the Taj Mahal as a tomb for his wife of just fourteen years, what must God be preparing as a home where He will live forever and ever with His people whom He loves?

Prepared in Detail

John saw My Father's House "prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband" (Rev. 21:2). I doubt that there is anything more detailed than a wedding. I know! All three of my children got married within eight months of each other! My mind almost exploded with all the details! My daughters spent hours selecting just the right dress. Then they had to find the right headpiece to go with the dress--and whether it would be shoulder, fingertip, or chapel length.

Next they searched for the right shoes to go with the dress, and after that they picked out just the right jewelry and the right hairdo and the right flowers and the right church and the right music and the right bridesmaids and the right bridesmaids' dresses and the right groomsmen and--praise God!--the right grooms! Then there was the selection of the place for the rehearsal dinners, the menus for the rehearsal dinners, the place for the receptions, the menus for the receptions, the bride and groom's cakes for the receptions, and the decorations for each event. And I haven't even mentioned the hours and hours of poring over the invitation list after deciding on the color, size, print, and style of the invitation itself! Preparing for a wedding can be a full-time job for months preceding the actual day. And all of this was just to prepare my brides for their husbands!

Of all these elaborate plans, no part of the preparation received more attention, thought, planning, and care than the appearance of the bride herself. And despite all the planning and attention to detail, both of my daughters at one point on the day of their weddings became hysterical over their appearance!

I remember the morning of my own wedding day. My mother brought me breakfast in bed, serving it on the new china and with the new silver I had been given as wedding gifts. After breakfast, I stayed in my bedclothes, resting and taking it easy, so I would be fresh for the marriage ceremony and the reception that would follow that evening.

Several hours before I was to leave the house to go to the church, I began to get ready. I started with my makeup, carefully applying it in order to enhance any physical beauty I might have and hide the many flaws I did have! I worked on my hair, sweeping it up so it would stay under the veil yet be visible enough to frame my face. Finally my mother came to my room and helped me get into my wedding gown, fastening the dozens of small buttons up the back and adjusting the chapel-length veil. When I had done everything I knew to do to get myself ready, I just stood in front of the full-length mirror and gazed at the young woman enveloped in ivory silk and lace who was reflected in it. I was tense and eager as I wondered, after six and a half months of preparation, if I would be beautiful and desirable to my husband.