And now for my final “perspective” that leads to joy…..
Sometimes it is still difficult for me to believe my friend Maureen is gone. It seems to me that any moment she will walk around the corner at our gym and we will hug and catch up on each other’s families. In truth, she transitioned from this life to the next last December but Mo (as her friends called her) did not leave without passing out parting gifts.
I visited her in the hospital very close to the end of her life. As a matter of fact, I did not realize it at the time but she thought the night I was there would be her last. The decision had been made to remove her ventilator. Her ferocious battle with cancer was over.
I could not believe it when I entered her room and found her completely cognitive. The tube filling her lungs with air made it impossible for her to speak, so she had large legal pad in her lap and pen in hand which she used to express her needs, wants, and….say her good-byes. She had some things she wanted to say to me and wasted no time pouring them out on paper. Shortly thereafter, her parents and siblings arrived and I began to excuse myself so that they could have privacy but Mo wasn’t finished with me yet. She held her arms up to me and when I leaned over to her, she pulled me into a fierce hug. She held me for a long moment and then positioned my face directly in front of her own so that she could look into my eyes. Then, she mouthed the words “I love you” around the tube in her mouth. Gracious even in the final chapter of her life, she gave me the gift of a good-bye well said.
But her greatest gift of all was to grant us all the privilege of witnessing the joy that filled her even until the end.
Of course, Mo struggled emotionally at times. I am not for a moment going to mislead you otherwise. She would be horrified and I would certainly hear about it when I make it through the pearly gates. It was heart wrenching for her to leave the husband, and two young children she adored. She did not want to part with her closely knit extended family or witness the grief of her many friends. Still, joy always managed to rise to the surface above it all and it left so many people questioning just how that could be.
Mo wanted to make sure everyone understood the source so she planned every detail of her own funeral. Over and over, whether in scripture, testimony or song, the service delivered the same message: This is not the end.
I am so glad that Christ provides hope, blessing and sustenance for this life but I am even more thankful that this is not all there is for me. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:9 (NKJV) “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.”
The more I study the Word of God I am just amazed at how different The Father expects our perspective to be concerning eternity than I find prevalent in Western Christianity. It seems quite common for Christians to hold on to mortal life at all cost, but Scripture assumes the children of God will be positively longing to be united with Christ.
“Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. ” Romans 8:23-25
Christ holds the promise of Paradise before us as our greatest comfort as well.
“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” 1 Thess. 16-18
What is more, we are challenged throughout Scripture to live our lives on earth as an investment in the life to come, especially when we face hardship.
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:11 & 12
Can I be honest? The mindset that I am to be looking for Christ’s reappearing and anticipating eternity is fairly new for me. I first began to long for Heaven during the wait for my daughters’ adoption to be complete. In the beginning, it was purely selfish. I thought, “Well, if Jesus came back today we would be united in a moment…” but somewhere after that, as I began to discover a bit more about the tenderness and goodness of God my motivation began to change. The more deeply I grew in relationship with Christ, the sweeter His presence became to me and I began to long to see Him face to face. What is more, this Savior who loves me so tenderly has promised to prepare a place for me that is beyond all my hopes and dreams!
One day as I was driving along, I began to imagine how everything around me would appear after Christ returns and it is all made new. I pictured the old world peeling away and the glorious new one in its place. Then, I thought of the most beautiful places on earth, the images captured to be printed on calendars and I realized….even those places are all marred! Fallen. Marred. Everything!
What a breathtaking sight the new creation will be and today could be the day He returns.
It is such a somber realization for me to think of just how short my stay here is in comparison to the life to come. It does not matter if I live to be 105 years old, it will only be a blink in comparison to eternity. Yes, the thought causes me to want to live this life as an investment in the one to come but what joy comes from that perspective!
I am constantly joking with my husband that all I do is work but I never get paid but, how much does it really matter if I am never successful in this world? As long as I am using my resources and gifts to glorify God and bless others, I can be confident I will receive my reward for eternity.
I know a beautiful young Christian woman who conceived a child through rape. She chose to rear that child despite the sorrow and trauma of her abuse and she is doing it with love. This morning I watched her dedicate that baby to God….a treasure laid up in Heaven.
James Lual Atak serves day after day to provide shelter, food, education and spiritual instruction for hundreds of children orphaned by the genocide in Darfur. Even at great risk of great physical harm he spreads his protection over women who have escaped slavery. He will most likely never live above the poverty level, yet in the Kingdom of God he will be highly esteemed.
My friend Mo lost her battle with cancer but in the very moment she took her last breath, she was completely made whole and received into the Father’s arms. I did not have to be there to know exactly what he said.
“Welcome home, daughter. I have been waiting for you. Now receive your reward in full, for it is great….”
In only a moment, we could all be changed. Perhaps, it will be today. What a joy fills my heart as I consider it!
Now if you will excuse me, I need to go check the eastern sky……
“Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done.” Revelation 22:12