August 30, 2015
I grew up in Chicago. I lived in the same house on Wilson Ave for 17 years. The only other place I have lived for that length of time is my current home in Morris, where I have now also lived for 17 years. It has been 40 years since I lived in that house in Chicago, and yet I still have dreams about it. I can still vividly picture every room, and every inch of the yard I used to play in. Earlier this year, I had an urgent desire to go back and see my old house, and Ed and I drove down familiar streets back to where it all started for me. But now the playground across the street where I used to climb the monkey bars and go down the slide is just an empty lot. The trees in the front yard that my father planted are gone and a big fence borders the side. But the house is still there. And when I looked up, I knew right away why the Lord wanted me to go back there. There, at the very top of my old house, stood a cross:
Our homes here are important to us. It is where we can be ourselves. It is where we feel comfortable, and where we surround ourselves with the people, the pets, and the possessions that mean so much to us. When we have to leave for an extended period of time - be it because of a job, school, or to defend our country - we get homesick. Even after a wonderful vacation, we are happy to be back in our own home. Our earthly homes are truly a blessing from the Lord.
So what was God trying to tell me with the cross on the top of my childhood home? I believe He was saying that my home there had served its purpose, but now He has called me to higher things. I cannot go back to being a child. The apostle Paul told the Corinthians, "When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things." (1 Corinthians 13:11) Now, after my 40 year journey through the wilderness after leaving my childhood home, God has called me to lead His people here into the promised land.
And that promised land is the true home of every believer in Christ. It is my home, and I pray it is also your home. It is the home we long for deep in our hearts. The one Paul said our spirits groan for (Romans 8:23, 2 Corinthians 5:4). Every person who has accepted Jesus as their personal Savior and Lord, trusting in Him alone for their salvation, and desiring to be with Him forever, has been given the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, is not only our Comforter and Guide, but also is our property deed to our home in heaven (2 Corinthians 5:5). He guarantees that when we either pass from this earthly life, or the Lord Jesus raptures His church bodily, our eternal home in heaven will be ready and waiting for us. And it will be so much greater than we could possibly imagine! Paul knew that God had called him to service here on earth and he fully intended to complete that service, but he also said he desired to depart and be with Christ, which is FAR BETTER (Philippians 1:23). And that should be our desire also. And yet why do so many of us still fear the life to come? Or to put it more bluntly, fear death? Why would we want to hang on to that rundown trailer we live in now, even though we have a mansion awaiting us in glory? There are noble reasons, such as Paul had. We have people who need us. We have a mission to fulfill. We want to do what the Lord has called us to do while we travel through our lives here. But fear? That should never enter into the equation. We should rejoice when the Lord calls a brother or sister home. We may weep for ourselves, but should rejoice for them. For they are now living where there are no more tears, no more sorrow or crying or pain. They are resting from their labors (Revelation 14:13) in the place that Jesus prepared especially for them (John 14:3).
Or are we so wrapped up earthly pleasures that we do not have the joy of anticipation we should have for our true home? As our Gospel reading (Matthew 6:19-21) urges us, what is the point in slaving day in and day out for things that will last only briefly? Why would we not want to work for the treasures that will last us throughout eternity? We invest in IRAs and such to save up for retirement, which also will last only a few decades at best. Why do we not invest more time and effort into saving up treasures that will last forever instead? And even if the stock market doesn't crash, and we keep that vintage car stored in a perfect environment, eventually we will die and we can't take it with us. All we will bring with us is our faith, which is what gets us in the door; and our works, which is what determines the rewards we will enjoy forever.
And then, when we do finally arrive at our permanent address in heaven, we will feel as if we are back home where we belong. It won't feel strange at all. It will almost be as if we never left. All the questions we had during our earthly life will be answered in an instant. Everything will make perfect sense. We will have a peace that is incomprehensible here. Fear will be non-existent. Sadness won't even be a distant memory, because we will know why the things that made us sad here happened, and understand that they were all part of the divine plan - a plan that will bring nothing but eternal glory to God, and joy to us.
I recently watched a movie titled "The Theory of Everything". Being a person that loves science, especially the branch of science that Stephen Hawking has a passion for, I related to his attempt to satisfy his deep desire for answers as to how and why the universe exists. I admired his courage in the face of rapidly increasing physical handicaps brought on from Lou Gehrig disease, or ALS as it is also known, and marvelled at how he managed to survive way past his prognosis with that disease. My prayer is that he comes to the realization that it is God that worked a miracle in his life, and that God has all the answers he so desperately wants, before he finds out on the other side of eternity. How I would love to be able to meet him some day in heaven! He would no longer need a wheelchair or a speech synthesizer. And we could discuss the beauty of the universe and its workings, and marvel together at the awesomeness of the God who created it.
And I saved the best part for last. While our lives here might last a century at best, our lives in heaven will last for all of our eternity. This concept in itself is beyond our understanding, but just think - an entire lifetime of struggling with pain and sorrow here, is less than a nanosecond compared to an eternity in heaven. Maybe that is why the last verse of "Amazing Grace" is my favorite, for it says, "When we've been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun; we've no less days to sing God's praise, then when we've first begun." Amen!