“I want to see Jesus.”
“You want to see Jesus?” I looked up at him over the pot of vegetables I was frying, his inquiry was abrupt.
“Does He only stay up or may He also come down?”
His six year old understanding of heaven and earth made me laugh.
“No, He stays in heaven, but if you love Him you will see Him again when you die and go to heaven.”
He stared at me as if I had given him the wrong answer and after a moment he responded.
“But I won’t go up. They put you down when you die. I have seen them dig.”
I looked up at him and realized I had asked God the same question — how, Lord? My friend is buried in the ground, how is he possibly with You? How is heaven possible?
And hope seemed lost and far and maybe I would never find the answers for the weight pressed against my chest.
It has been a pleading a heart cry, a guilty feeling that creeps up in the middle of the night– taunting me, begging me to answer it.
I did not used to know what it felt like to have someone you know die, suddenly, tragically, or from cancer. I have seen felt them all now. A car accident. A disease that came in like a thief. A complication due to cancer. Three times in three months I got a phone call and each time it broke me a little more until I found myself pounding walls in the bathroom and screaming at God at midnight.
I carried bricks down the small village path to construct his grave site, and I wondered if God truly had released his weary soul to heaven. I just needed something, anything to cling to. Death of someone you love makes you aware to the reality that this place is temporary, we labor and sow and in the end it means nothing if death only devours us. But I sat there thinking, if heaven is real it changes death into the most glorious moment of our being.
I remember that Jesus wept. He cried out to His Father in those final moments “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani” My God, My God, why have You forsaken me? I have sat alone and cried out the same. This was never supposed to be the end game. Never. But His love whispers the same, this was never the plan. Never. And I know, He did not intend this hurt, this grief that overwhelmed me in those days when hours seemed to pass so slowly and I had to remember to keep believing that He was only ever good. Sin broke a world of joy and peace, it left us with fights and struggles and broken hallelujahs. He hurts with us through the wreckage and He beckons us to heaven when we’ve learned hope and joy in the absence of what should have been and the silent places of those we love.
I asked for Him to give me glimpses of hope, of heaven, of being made whole, and He did. Not in the glamorous way I wanted, but in the small glories and the battles I have witnessed through the spiritual world.
God will reveal Himself in time, through grief– as we choose hope again and again. It is a constant decision, hope. It’s saying “today I will trust that you are rebuilding this wreckage.” It’s finding the strength to pull that weight off your chest slowly by slowly. It is knowing that it will glorify God in the end because anything He ordained cannot do anything less. It’s placing an expectation in something so glorious as heaven.
I stared at her phone number in my phone, I knew it would never reach her this side of heaven. But I could not delete it, not now. We had called that number the day they told us, not believing it was true, someone answered, hung up and then switched the number off. And I still left it there in the my contacts. I know one day I will meet her again and there will be no need for phones or translation, just us face to face speaking one language.
I answered him simply as I looked into his curious six year old face. His understanding of heaven is immature, it’s young faith but at the same time it’s courageous; it’s a reflection of my own heart looking for answers. He seeks to understand the mysteries of heaven, yet he humbly acknowledges Jesus and yearns to meet this man he hears loves him and wants what is only good for him.
Oh, He wants what is only good for us.
And maybe I do not need to know the how we get up from down, I just need to trust Him now. Trust that He is powerful enough to welcome a sinner into the gates of heaven because blood stained the earth and made me whole. Trust that He is mighty enough to draw me into His arms after the doubt and wonder. Trust that He is making all things new again.