“Granddad, did you really die?” At 14 years of age my curiosity was peaked. I could be in the presence of someone who had died and come back to life. I should have known then if anyone had done it, it would be Granddad. He was the first believer in the Lord for our family, now five generations strong. He was a preacher and could he preach, “hell, fire and brimstone”! We were never out of a service at noon, never. Red faced, sweat pouring off him, pacing back and forth across the platform, no one ever needed a hearing aid.
His simple answer, “Yes”, was all I needed to keep going.
“Did you go to heaven?” Again, a short “Yes”.
Now I could ask one of the questions my young mind was seeking: “What was it like?”
Granddad became very quiet, more serious than I’d ever seen him. With love and truthfulness in his eyes, slowly, softly as if remembering something far away yet forever present, “Clyde, all the time I’ve been back, I’ve never found one word to describe it.”
That was it. We never talked about it again. I have often wished we had but each time I thought about it I knew I would get the same answer. Today, I understand why he preached the way he did. Heaven was more real to him than life itself.
Granddad wanted his son to follow him and become a minister of the Word of God. Unfortunately, his only son died very young. The family all looked for my cousin Wally to be his replacement. He was the perfect candidate. He showed great interest early on and he loved the Lord. He was just a few years older than me when he said his good-byes to us and went to be with the Lord.
I was still in grade school when “the mantle” fell on my shoulders. Mom was the only one who ever said anything to me about following in Granddad’s footsteps but I knew the whole family was “looking” at me. I was baptized in junior high but never accepted the Jesus into my heart until a senior in high school. The zeal of the Lord was upon me! I carried a Bible everywhere. I enrolled in Bible College and off I went.
I got passing grades but I struggled spiritually for years before I realized I did not have what it took to be a pastor. I wanted to please the family, I really did. The year I decided not to pursue becoming a pastor my granddad died. I’m glad I never told him but the family knew and they prayed.
The longer I stayed away from their desire, the heavier this invisible mantle became. I was so tormented at times I often ran spiritually from God. It’s hard to run from God. There’s no place He is not present. More torment.
I changed “careers”, married, had children and tried to go on. It was a couple of decades in my new profession when I realized I was happy, really happy. I served others, people felt better, happier, and I had the opportunity to speak to them about the Lord. I even had occasions of leading people to the Lord. I was active in church; my children were growing in the love and admonition of the Lord. My wife was a great supporter and my best friend.
I’m not sure when it happened. There was no voice from heaven. No scriptural passage popped out at me. I just realized I was where God wanted me and doing what He wanted. A very heavy weight lifted from my shoulders, “the mantle” was gone. It was such an exhilarating feeling. I had freedom as I never knew before.
I realized if I’m where God wants me there’s no place else to be.
Granddad wore his mantle well. I pray I wear mine well.
One day I will lay my mantle down and go to heaven. Perhaps the Lord will allow me to come back too. If He does, I promise to tell you all about it. ;)
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