I still find it somewhat ironic. Even though I served as a pastor for just over forty years, I was always afraid of dying. Yet in hindsight death was nowhere near as traumatic as I feared. Rather it ushered me through into a life far beyond anything I had ever experienced on Earth.
“For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.”
When I think back to some of the topics I preached on from the pulpit, I almost want to cry with embarrassment. I spent a whole year of Sunday nights expounding on the precise chronology of the end times. And do you know what? Jesus did indeed come back for his Bride. But that was about the only thing that I got right.
Wandering round the Celestial City has been an incredible experience. I've bumped into Jonah and shared a sandwich with Isaiah. I was amazed to find out that he really did write all that incredibly accurate stuff about Cyrus. I've even put my name on the waiting list to chat with Peter but there are 12,452,546 saints ahead of me, so I'm not exactly holding my breath. I haven't even bothered signing up to see Moses or Paul.
“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.”
Forty years of ministry taught me a lot about selfishness and hypocrisy and good old-fashioned human kindness. But it's only now that we have resurrection bodies that I truly comprehend my brothers and sisters. Every ambition, every motive is out in the open for everyone to see. Looking back, I'm shocked at how incredibly juvenile so much of my earthly behaviour was: trying to impress my congregation with my doctorate degree; casually mentioning our bumper attendance figures at the ministers' fraternal; ensuring that I bought a flashier car than my neighbour had. My only consolation is that everyone else was equally as childish. We were a nursery full of howling infants who thought they ruled the world.
“Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”
There is nothing in all this vast universe to compare with stepping into the throne room of the Lamb. Every molecule in my being resonates in worship. It's not unusual for a single hymn of praise to come to an end only to discover that ten years have flown by. To look upon his face is to comprehend the reason for our very existence. To have his smile alight on you is to wonder afresh at the extravagant cost of redemption.
I remember a couple in my church who would storm out if the service overran by two minutes. (I haven't looked to see whether they made it here or not.) And we had five dreadful years of bickering over the deacons' proposal to rip out the church pews. Up here in Heaven only the Lamb and the elders are seated. For the rest of us, if we're not standing and singing our hearts out, then we're on our faces in speechless adoration. That's one thing eternity has taught me: it's children who love to squabble over trifles; adults focus on what's truly important.
“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
No one needs faith when the object of his desire stands before him. Likewise who hopes for what he already has? But loves prevails throughout eternity.
I was faithful to my wife through 37 years of marriage. Every day I tried my level best to love her. Yet I have come to see that so many of my expressions of love were directed right back at myself. My sorry excuse for love was mainly about me, me, me. But Heaven has opened my eyes. No longer shall I love as a child loves, begging to be comforted, concerned with my own needs and wants. Instead I am learning to love as my Saviour does. Loving as an adult who has been twice created in God's image. Loving as one who's genuinely prepared to give and give and give and not count the cost. I thank God that I'm finally growing up.
(In-line quotations taken from 1Cor 13:9-13, NIV)
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