It was All Saints Day on Sunday, the day we pause to remember our church’s dearly departed.
A hush fell over our small sanctuary. Art Stensland cranked open the stained-glass window at the back, so we could hear the church bell ringing like a clarion over the dew-covered fields.
We folded our hands in our laps, and closed our eyes to remember: This all ends someday.
For most of us in these polished pews, the cemetery across the road will be our final resting place. We walk by our very own grave sites every Sunday morning. A few times a year, we follow sealed caskets out the glass doors, clutching wads of Kleenex in our fists with our coats zippered tight. It always seems like our loved ones are buried on the coldest, dreariest days.
On Sunday, Art kept the window open a while. The cool November morning exhaled into the sanctuary.
I felt drenched in the chill, and in the warmth.
The chill of this windy, wild world —
and the expectant warmth of the next.
I thought about the faces of heaven. And I saw him in my mind’s eye — this one man, with bright, crinkled eyes. He was drenched in light. He showed up there on October 23 at age 77 after a solid run here on Earth.
Friend, there really are faces. There really is a place called heaven. We get to go, though we may be scared to leave.
And we don’t talk about it like we ought. Maybe if we talked about that Day more, we’d fret about this day less.
Sometimes, Heaven feels like a fairy tale because it’s faraway, but it’s not. It’s neither fairy tale nor faraway.
“Seventy years are given to us! Some even live to eighty. But even the best years are filled with pain and trouble; soon they disappear, and we fly away” (Psalm 90:10).
Heaven is for real, and you can almost feel its breath on your face if you sit still long enough. It’s not hope-against-hope or a rose-colored-glasses wish. Heaven is an actual address where people actually live.
Sit in the pew beside me. Feel the November wind. And then let your soul find the warmer place, down in deep —
Sin will be a memory. Pain will be lifted. Envy won’t have a voice. So much of what we fret about here on Earth is really our heart crying out for immortality. When our earthly hearts beg to be seen, loved, significant and known, this is what’s really happening: our very own souls are stretching arms toward our forever-inheritance.
It’s yours. Keep walking. It’s up ahead, and you’ll be there before you know it.
Here on earth, I have this friend with cerebral palsy, and it’s not always easy for her to feed herself, depending on what we’re serving, so I’ll lift the spoon to her mouth. She tells me between bites: “When we get to heaven, Jennifer, I’m going to sit beside you, and spoon-feed you your supper.”
Deal, I tell her.
Look, right here —
In heaven, you might be spoon-fed by a friend. You will put your hand to the heart of Jesus and feel it thrumming. Feel His breath on your shoulder. Find yourself a hammock. Run barefoot in snow. Spin through fields of Queen Anne’s lace. Wear a feather boa to supper. Put together a 1,000-piece puzzle with the guy who hung next to your Savior. Ride on the back of a lion. Visit your great-great-great-great grandma. Feed a giraffe. Paint your house purple. Never lock the front door. Tell Thomas how you totally “got” all his questions. Walk on water, then through sand, and no one will get made when you put your dirty feet on the throne room floor.
Every good thing we long for is fulfilled in an actual place where your souls’ feet will stand, in the presence of the King.
But for now, we are here for a time, right here, long enough to sit shoulder-to-shoulder with our eyes closed, and to feel the cold wind through the window, and to hear the bell pealing loud and deep–
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep.”