I'm not exactly sure how I died, although I do have a vague recollection of the blast of a diesel horn followed by the stench of scorched leather. But, thank God, my demise was apparently painless and left me no worse for wear.
However, my first impression of Heaven was... well, disappointing. No tunnel of light. No pearly gates. Just me, standing alone on a deserted road in the middle of an incredibly bleak landscape. I'd hoped to spend eternity astride my motorcycle (painted white, of course) cruising endless golden highways. But there was no motorcycle to be seen - white or otherwise.
So I started walking.
The further I traveled along the empty road, the more uneasy I became. With each new step, doubts and fears would arise to haunt me. What was waiting at the end of the road? God? Or maybe this place wasn't Heaven at all.
Quite frankly, my earthly life was nothing to be proud of. Most of it was spent as a bully and a braggart, using fear and violence to fulfill my own selfish desires. Even my appearance reflected my hellish attitude; the bravest of men would step aside at the sight of my unkempt hair, heavily tattooed arms, and black leather jacket. Yeah, I was one bad dude, and proud of it.
All this changed the night I punched that mousy little guy in the teeth and lifted his wallet. He looked me square in the eye and said through bloody lips, “Jesus forgives you, and so do I.“ His words hit me like a well-placed kick to the groin. The concept of forgiveness was foreign to me, and to suggest God Himself could forgive all the terrible things I'd done was unthinkable. No matter how hard I tried, I could not forget those words.
Thus began my search for Jesus. But, to my dismay, the fearsome appearance which had served me so well in the past was now proving to be a hindrance; church folk were afraid of me. But fortunately for me the cities are full of tough street preachers not so easily intimidated, and my eternal salvation was eventually secured with their patience and God's grace.
Which, I suppose, is why I'm here. On this road. Alone.
Barely visible in the distance, the outline of a magnificent city loomed against the pale blue sky. It reminded me a little of the Emerald City in The Wizard of Oz, except it blazed and sparkled as if created from the purest essence of light itself.
This was it. I nervously ran my fingers through my stringy hair, wishing I had the foresight to wash it before dying.
At the end of the road stood the city’s gate, round and white like a single gigantic pearl. I reached out to knock, but noticed the two telltale yellow fingers on my right hand and found myself feeling guilty about never trying to quit smoking. So many regrets. Too many. With a heavy heart, I turned to face the desolate road once again. That is where I belonged.
“Enter, good and faithful servant.”
The voice embraced me. It was a strong voice, speaking with great authority but filled with love and compassion. I recognized it as belonging to a King. My King.
“Don’t look at me, Lord,” I cried, dropping to my knees and burying my face in a leather sleeve. "I am not worthy to be seen by you."
The voice spoke again. “Arise, and see yourself as I do.”
I peeked from behind the folds of my jacket. With a solemn rumble, the pearl gate rolled aside to reveal a second gate made of polished silver. Staring back at me from the gleaming surface was a familiar face. It was mine, but with its hardened features smoothed to a peaceful composure. My hair was clean and well-trimmed, and my eyes were filled with the gentleness of a fawn. I was dressed in a type of white jumpsuit, flawless except where the sleeves had been torn off at the shoulder. Although still muscular, my arms were free of tattoos. I hesitate to admit it, but I was... uh, beautiful.
“Now will you enter?” asked the voice. “We’ve been expecting you.”
From somewhere behind the mirrored gate, I heard the throaty roar of a well-tuned motorcycle, and in my heart I knew it was white.
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