It has been a long, long time since I wrote anything here. There have been many things I would have liked to write about, important things, but I always want to write fully, and that takes more time than I have seemed to be able to marshal at a stretch during the past year. My time has been full of many very pleasant things, so that I can’t complain, but it has not contained any gaps of an hour or so that are not clamored for by other tasks.
However, tonight the work week is over, Alden is downtown feeding the homeless with the youth group, and while I really should work on preparing for a retreat I am presenting next weekend or go out and start reclaiming the yard and garden after a winter of neglect, nothing is absolutely breathing down my neck, and I want to write about something that happened while I was washing the dishes tonight.
Three years ago, after Al died, I listened over and over and over to a CD of worship music put out by Sovereign Grace Ministries (the CD “King of Grace”). I kept it in the car and played it every minute I drove anywhere. Its lyrics spoke to my heart and lifted me to heaven, where Al was and where Jesus was, and its hope and glory comforted me. I listened to it for several months, all through the rest of that winter and into the spring. Then I put it away and purposely did not listen to it again.
At different times in the past I have done something similar, though not usually intentionally. It just happens that I’ll listen to a song or a CD a lot for a period of time and then stop listening to it, and then years later when I hear it again it transports me instantly back to the time and place when/where I used to hear it. I’m sure you’ve experienced that. I suppose it’s sort of like a low budget but quite effective form of time travel.
Well, when I was ready to put away King of Grace, I put it away very intentionally, hoping that someday when I brought it out again it would take me back to those first months after Al died.
For some reason I have missed Al a lot recently. More than usual. It may have been from being with his family last week over spring break (a great time, by the way, and a nice road trip there and back for Alden and me). Or it may have been because I came across a file in my file cabinets labeled “planning with Al” and remembered those last months when he and I talked about so many things that pertained to the time after he would be gone—the memorial service, life insurance, his papers and computer files, taxes, etc. etc. I remember at the time thinking that it seemed so unreal that I would soon be doing life without him. I couldn’t imagine it. Now, looking back on it, that period of doing life with him seems—and is—increasingly distant.
Anyway, for whatever reason I have missed Al a lot these past few days. So tonight after Alden left I decided to get out the CD and see what would happen.
Not unexpectedly, when the first notes of the first song started, they stirred up the feelings, frame of mind and memories of winter/spring three years ago. And tears, of course. And I remembered why that CD was so perfect for that time. It vibrates with praise to Jesus for what he’s done. It marvels at the unbelievable grace that takes God’s enemies and makes them his children. And it is awash with the glorious hope that we will one day stand in his presence and worship him face to face. I am sure that one of the wonderful comforts of those songs at that time was knowing that that was exactly where Al was and what he was doing. Al loved to worship and to spend time meditating on the Lord, and he lived and breathed a longing to be in God’s presence. I knew after he died that he was where he had always looked forward to being. And I knew that someday we would join him and worship the Lord together again.
It’s always good to be reminded of those truths and promises, but tonight I heard them with the same sense of immediacy that I had had heard them with three years ago. In my experience, when someone you love has just moved to heaven, and you know that they are there in God’s very presence, worshiping him with total abandon, your heart and mind are thinking of that glory all the time, and your ears are eagerly tuned to catch strains of heavenly voices singing along as you worship. The time and space between you and the heavenly throne room seems like nothing at all—just the thinnest of veils that might be pulled back at any second. The rest of your life on this earth seems like barely a blip, and then you’ll be there.
That is the way I listened to those songs three years ago, and suddenly I was hearing them the same way tonight. I was so keenly aware of the indescribable GLORY of Jesus and so bowled over by his unfathomable grace and mercy, that I had to take off my rubber gloves, kneel right there on the kitchen floor, raise my hands in praise and sing with everything in me. I don’t know what the neighbors thought if they heard or saw me, but I don’t really care. Thinking of what my Lord went through for me on the cross and what he won for me by his death and resurrection takes my breath away. What a savior! What a mind-blowing, history-altering thing that HE—IS—RISEN! The tomb is empty! All those wonderful Easter glories that we just celebrated (well, we didn’t exactly, because we were in the car all day on Easter, but other people did) are true and real, and they make all the difference in everything.
Through the humdrum of daily life as well as the high points and low points of the past three years, the reality of Jesus’ victory over death has sustained us, given us hope, and brought joy in the midst of sadness. It has been the rock on which we’ve stood and lived, and that rock has been firm and unmoving. But inevitably the sense of the nearness of heaven fades, and since we all assume we will live to a ripe old age (and perhaps because I am still age 18 in my head), this life seems as if it will last a long time. It was an unexpected treat tonight to have that ho-hum mindset blown right out the door by the wind of Easter and to experience once again the heart-stopping glory of a few moments worshiping at God’s feet. Of course we can worship God anywhere, any time, and we are always just a prayer away from his throne. But I think I have been feeling sort of dry and distant for a while now, and tonight it seemed as if the curtain was drawn back and the brilliant light of heaven shone down like a spotlight into my kitchen, and I was almost-as-good-as there in his presence and overwhelmed by his grace. The heart of it all was not, ‘Hey, I’m having a neat spiritual experience,’ or ‘Wow, I feel close to Al right now as I am so aware of heaven,’ although those were true. It was, ‘Jesus is so far above any words I could ever come up with to express his majesty—I can do nothing but sing my heart out and then marvel in silence.’ What an amazing thing to think that that is what Al is experiencing all the time. He must be enthralled!
There are dozens of other things I would love to write about, but that’s all I have time for right now. Maybe I’ll get another unclaimed, or at least negotiable, hour before next year, and I can fulfill my promise to write about some of the big events of last spring/summer. Here’s hoping!
Meanwhile, may you be wonderfully aware of God’s presence and his amazing love for you.