(Patient names changed in accordance with privacy laws)
“But you are the life of souls, the life of lives. You live, O Life of my soul, because you are life itself, immutable.” -Augustine
“When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.“
“I hear the drums echoing tonight
But she hears only whispers of some quiet conversation…”
My socked feet dance across the (likely dirty) linoleum of the kitchen in wild abandon. Nobody’s home; might as well. I move my feet and, as I sometimes do, think of heaven.
I remember one of the first visions I ever had. Maybe seventeen years old, upstairs in our room above the garage, listening to music and dancing. I had worship playing and I was jumping around like a crazy woman (I think I was trying to exercise??). And a song came on by New Life Worship. And I danced with all my might.
And suddenly there was with me “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white…”
They were there, with me, in the room, jumping up and down and praising the King: “our freedom is, our freedom is in Christ.” And it was a vision of eternity, a foretaste of heaven.
And the visions changed. There was a Sunday in November that I was home visiting my parents and my dad and I went to church together Sunday morning. During worship, I saw two patients, both dear to my heart, dying, unsaved, in need of Jesus. In my mind’s eye, they were dancing with the joy of the Lord.
And so this night in Arkansas, I don’t know if it’s a vision as much as holy imagination let’s me envision the day I dance with my patients in heaven. Daniel Dehnman. Ian Gray. Kathy Reynolds. Each dear to my soul, each brother or sister in the God-family; and each, when they died, provoked tears from my now sorrow-accustomed heart.
I imagine the day when I see them whole, complete, without sickness, cancer, IVs, chemo. Those things will be long gone and seldom remembered in the new world.
I mean, read this-
On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare
a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
the best of meats and the finest of wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace
from all the earth.
The Lord has spoken.
Another day, sunlight floods the room where I normally study. I’m too restless to sit very long, so I turn up a happy song* and take a dance break. As light glances off the bright floor, I think of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Another brother in the faith, who had words on death that take my breath away.
“No one has yet believed in God and the kingdom of God, no one has yet heard about the realm of the resurrected, and not been homesick from that hour, waiting and looking forward joyfully to being released from bodily existence…Death is hell and night and cold, if it is not transformed by our faith. But that is just what is so marvelous, that we can transform death.”1
And I realize that this joyful martyr, hung by the Nazis in 1945…he’ll be there too, dancing with us.
But best of all, sweetest of all, we’ll see him. I saw him today in my mind’s eye as I drove home under cloudy skies. In my mind- light, so much light, his kind face, and a wine glass that sparkled in the sunshine, at the feast. I saw him as one beholds something dimly in a mirror, but that glory was enough to bring tears to my eyes. We will see him. And dance with him too, no doubt, but I can hardly harbor the thought right now. We will see him.
This God who saw this mess we had gotten ourselves into, and “became flesh and blood,
and moved into the neighborhood.“ And what a sorry neighborhood that turned out to be- quite averse to the truth and troubled enough by his presence that it continually sought his destruction. But he did what none of us ever do and he stayed the course and kept on loving, till his love got him killed. Till he let us kill him.
And this beautiful embodiment of truth and love lay motionless in a tomb of rock and we realized who he was and thought all the world was gone, thought all light and truth was gone, and that the universe was just making and unmaking things in cruel indifference. And like Hazel Grace, we cried and cried.
But lo, deeper magic was at work still. Because behind all this “is not random chance, but the loving God.”2 And we celebrate this day because many years ago, a dead man took a breath in a hallowed tomb and showed himself not a mere loving man but the Holy Loving God . And in love this man Jesus of Nazareth died for us, and, miraculously, in love he rose for us. So we could get caught up in his happy song. So we could know him and know his love.
So while I rejoice that I’ll get to dance with Ian and Dietrich one day, the one person I’m longing to see above all else is this eternally interesting man, this perfectly loving man, Jesus the Christ.
“But if not, if only I may see Him, smell His garments and smile into my Lover’s eyes–ah then, not stars nor children shall matter, only Himself.”3