I have to be realistic—my recent visit to my hometown after fifteen years was probably my last visit there. Because of distance, advanced age, mine and the friends and relatives I saw there, I don't expect that we will see each other on Planet Earth again. That's not a morbid thought, however, but a mortal reality. Of course I felt sad when we drove off after saying Goodbye.
However, since many folks I visited are Christians, some of whom I have known since childhood, I do expect to see them again “Elsewhere” in the presence of God in Heaven. There we'll pick up our conversation that we had to cut short because of the brevity of our visit. The following is really a happy, joyful letter to someone whose name I made up and am calling “Greg,” but it represents all the men and women whom I love and with whom I visited recently.
(By the way, it was interesting how most of their conversations eventually turned to the 500 year flood my hometown experienced more than seven years ago which permanently changed the landscape and touched the lives of so many. If you are curious, Google Cedar Rapids, Iowa flood 2008 and watch the flood on YouTube.)
Many of those I visited eventually turned their conversation to the devastating personal flood they were experiencing through suffering various stages of their health issues. This personal flood was changing their own emotional landscape and touching not only themselves but the lives of their families. Many friends and relatives I visited were in assisted living residences or keeping busy with doctors appointments. Most of their health issues were at least indirectly related to our normal and unavoidable aging process. But regardless of age, all of us in a sense are waiting on the airport tarmac of life for the signal from the Heavenly Control Tower for our “takeoff” from this life of trials, sufferings, and afflictions.
Some of us would really want to stay here longer because we don't feel that we are finished with life and we don't want to sever loving relationships. Others are eager and impatient to leave because of pain and suffering and weakness. They long for their lifelong Faith to become sight at last. They pray for release even as their disordered body keeps them anchored to this life; their cross seems too heavy.
How can I be a Simon from Cyrene to the “Gregs” I met? How can I "come in from the fields and help them carry their cross" like Simon did for Jesus? I can light a candle and pray with compassion and love for each “Greg” I have met for his gentle takeoff in the company of angels whom God will assign to that tender task when God's perfect time comes. And I can also write my heart's message of encouragement to them and share some perspective to help prepare for what we all must face sooner or later:
You might have been told that possibly your takeoff could be sooner than you expected—or you are sensing that in your spirit. You might be trying to speed up “setting your house in order.” Perhaps you are becoming more aware that the attachments of life are fleeting and fragile. A flood can take everything away. Consider this, however: Some of us who expect our takeoff to be “later,” may leave suddenly and arrive in Heaven even before the “sooner” people. Others may linger far longer than they would wish and they need patience to endure their suffering by uniting it with Jesus' suffering for us.
But God, not doctors with all their sophisticated knowledge and skills, has ordained the time of our takeoff. You may be carrying a heavy cross right now, Greg, but the way of the cross leads you Home toward beholding God face to face at last. That's what it's all about. All of us must cross that Final Threshold into life after life.
God created us more than just a temporary body. All of us have an eternal soul with a forever destiny. The moment will arrive when our soul will separate from our suffering body and our soul will defy gravity and fly into God’s Presence no longer weighted down with pain and limitations of this earthly life. Some friends may be reluctant to talk about our leaving, but it should be a joyful thing to anticipate crossing The Threshold because “the best is yet to come!”
If you get there before I do, Greg, please pray for me to Jesus that I may always do the Father's will on earth as it is done in Heaven. That will cover it all! That’s an assignment, hear? And if I arrive before you, I'll pray the same for you. We are one family in Christ in Heaven and on earth. Death doesn't separate us. Even when we leave behind our bodies, our “earth suits,” for awhile, we are nevertheless still fully alive and will recognize one another in Heaven. Our eventual resurrection will provide us with “space suits” appropriate for our transformed life! Didn’t Jesus promise, “Whoever believes in Me will never die but have eternal life”?
Greg, hold on firmly to your faith in God through Jesus as your Savior no matter how your life boat might rock with pain or affliction during the rushing waters of the flood of your health issues. It is only for a little while. The floods of life will recede. If you become too weak to hang on to Him, Jesus will hold you tightly. When we close our eyes for our heavenly trip, don't be afraid, it won’t get dark! Jesus said that He Himself is the Light. His beloved disciple John wrote “God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” If you are “in Christ” no one can extinguish that Light!
WILL IT BE DARK?
Will it be dark
when I cross that Ultimate Threshold?
Beyond the sunset implies night
with all its terror and fright
when the next unknown scene unfolds.
"He that followeth Me
shall not walk in darkness
shall not walk in darkness
but shall have the Light of life."
Jesus assures those who walk this earth
how much more those on the Other Shore
who have leaped into immortality
"NO NIGHT THERE!"
thunders The Revelation.
The Lamb is The Light
the Lamp is His Presence
no sun and no moon
speaks their obsolescence
all is as noonday, all is the Light!
We shall not stumble and grope
in the darkness like those without hope
We who even now dwell in Eternity
shall shine endlessly
as the stars forever and ever.
The blind shall see God’s blazing glory
the lame will walk, the dumb talk
all praising the Lamb, the Light, continuously.
Will it be dark when we close our eyes?
Must we embark on that Final Voyage
with apprehension and dread
fearing what's ahead?
We will not sail into the sunset
We will not sail into the sunset
but into the splendid sunrise,
not into the foreboding of a growing night
but the sure promise of a dawning light
not with sighs but a shout Hallelujah!
God has provided the Lamb, THE LIGHT!
God has assuaged our fears: IT'S BRIGHT!