The Greatest Gift – A New Life
What you are about to read is going to require a belief in the afterlife. So if you’re not confident that life beyond death exists, you should stop reading now. This is for believers only.
I wish I could take credit for the following ideas and thoughts because they are really gifts from God. I have had fortunate experiences that left me open to God’s mysterious methods of communication. These blessings were only made possible by painful losses that seemed like curses at the time.
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. … is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives? The Prophet Gibran
I led a bible study some years ago on what heaven is like. Most people have read the scriptures that describe heaven: A mansion with many rooms, streets of gold with the river of life flowing through the middle, a peace that passes all understanding and much more. I presented to the group a quote from the Lord of the Rings trilogy by Tolkien. The wise wizard Gandalf is comforting Pippin, one of the little Hobbits, because they are under attack and Pippin thinks that it is the end:
Pippin: I didn’t think it would end this way.
Gandalf: End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path… One that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass… And then you see it.
Pippin: What? Gandalf?… See what?
Gandalf: White shores… and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.
Pippin: [smiling] Well, that isn’t so bad.
Gandalf: [softly] No… No it isn’t.
Heaven is a difficult concept for human beings to grasp. We can only imagine it using metaphors taken from the life we know here on Earth. We use phrases like “no more pain”, “everlasting joy” and “eternal peace.”
I asked the class to close their eyes for a moment and try to imagine what it might feel like to be in heaven. For about sixty silent seconds the room felt peaceful and serene. I asked people to share what they saw or felt. Someone said “Perfection.” Another said “Pure joy.” I then brought them back down to Earth by telling them they were WRONG! The shocked look on their faces showed their disappointment but I only let it last for a moment. I repeated their descriptions but added what I believe God would say in response: “Pure joy? It’s better than that!” “No more pain? It’s better than that!” “Everlasting Peace? It’s better than that!” And finally, “Perfection? It’s better than that!”
How could heaven be better than perfection? Isn’t perfection an absolute? Isn’t it “the unsurpassable degree of supreme excellence?” The dictionary definition.
Someone in the group said “Our brains are too small to understand what heaven is like.” I think that’s a great observation.
Try to combine all the most joyous moments from your own life and all others you’ve even heard or dreamed of; It’s better than that.
So, how many non-believers, who’ve read this far, now really want to believe in an afterlife? Sounds pretty good doesn’t it?
“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” Chardin
Pippen said “I didn’t think it would end this way.” That very same thought passed through my mind the night my wife Denise died. This was not the way we would be separated.
We had been together 4,925 days and married for 3,860 days. We had just celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary. We had two boys born out of our love.
I have been in agony ever since she slipped away.
Denise died suddenly, without warning, so we were spared the physical and emotional suffering of anticipation. But if I had known, what could I have done? If she were suffering physically, what limit would there be on what I would have done to ease her pain? If it were possible I would have gladly taken on all the pain onto myself. To protect her, I would give everything including my own life.
What if I could have saved her somehow? What would I have been willing to do?
If I couldn’t save her, what would I have done to make her last days on earth as wonderful as possible? If we could have shared nothing but joy, love and happiness in those last days, I would have done anything to make it possible. I would have made her last days “perfect.” I would have made them “even better than that.”
Yet, I was powerless to do anything. I couldn’t save her and there was no gift I could give that would come anywhere close to what I wanted her to have in those last moments.
But something has happened in the years since Denise passed away. She’s in heaven. She now has everything I wanted to give her. And it’s even better than that!!
I wanted her to feel no pain. I wanted to give her joy. I wanted to give her peace. And now, she has all these things beyond perfection. Way passed anything I could have managed on earth.
God gave her a new life. In heaven. “A far green country, under a swift sunrise.”
And God has given me a great gift. I have the knowledge that Denise is in his presence and is beyond perfection. I did say I would do anything, give everything including my life for this to happen. Now my deep sorrow is her unsurpassable and infinite joy. My new life has grief interwoven through it.
So ask me now, if my suffering is the price to be paid for her unspeakable happiness, is it too much? Is the price so high that I won’t gladly pay it? I’d pay it ten thousand times over.
You pay that price for someone you love that much. And how long will I make these grief payments? The rest of my life. Maybe 40 or 50 years. That’s quite a bargain when you’re talking about everlasting joy.
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Her joy, my sorrow. The same. And some day, the grey rain-curtain of this world will roll back for me and then I’ll see her again. That’s the way I thought it would end.