I’ve never understood Heaven very well. I don’t think any of us will really understand it until we’re Home, because all this broken Earth offers us are reflections of light through a dim and cracked mirror. A few days ago, though, my Dad finally got to witness the full picture. He got to see his Creator completely. It’s hard to picture exactly what that glorious reunion looked like, but I keep thinking about the story of the prodigal son, how the Father runs out to the son and wraps his arms around him and throws a huge feast for him. I imagine that’s how Jesus greeted my Dad when he finally got there, he ran up, he wrapped his arms around him, and with tears of joy in his eyes, whispered “Well done, my son. Well done.”
The past few days have been a hurricane of emotions. Honestly, we feel a lot of relief that my Dad’s not in pain any more, relief that he’s home. There’s joy in that fact too, a lot of joy. But, because we’re human, there’s also a lot of sadness and sorrow. There’s weariness, confusion, and pain. I stumbled across some powerful scripture later on in the day when he passed. Psalm 116 says:
I love the Lord, for he heard my voice;
he heard my cry for mercy.
2 Because he turned his ear to me,
I will call on him as long as I live.
3 The cords of death entangled me,
the anguish of the grave came over me;
I was overcome by distress and sorrow.
4 Then I called on the name of the Lord:
“Lord, save me!”
5 The Lord is gracious and righteous;
our God is full of compassion.
6 The Lord protects the unwary;
when I was brought low, he saved me.
7 Return to your rest, my soul,
for the Lord has been good to you.
And, man, the Lord certainly has been good to us. We’ve seen so many remarkable stories of people encouraged and touched by my Dad. One of my Dad’s best friends and colleagues prayed with my Dad and started a relationship with Jesus while my Dad was on his deathbed. That is wild. Jesus is freakin wild. In the past few days, we’ve been sharing a lot of stories like that. My family and I have been recounting a lot of funny old stories about my Dad, laughing together, remembering him together. There’s so many things I’m thankful for with my time with my Dad, and those eighteen years of influence he had on me will never wear off. I’ll be telling my kids and my grandkids stories about this goofy, humble, incredible man.
So here we are, right at the intersection of sorrow and joy, loss and growth, fear and hope. I’m not sure what mourning and grief will look like exactly, but I know it’ll take time. Take time to figure out how to get back to normal life, take time to not be sad about it anymore, take time to see the full effects of it. And that time is critical, there’s no rushing grief. If there’s one thing I learned in the past 50 days my Dad’s been in the hospital, it’s that the Lord uses waiting. He uses waiting, because as agonizing and distressing as it can be, it builds faith and trust like nothing else. The Lord knows that if we can trust Him in times of silence, pain, in long, drawn-out times of sorrow, then we’ll trust Him anywhere. He made the Israelites wait in the desert, Noah wait for the flood. Heck, we’re still waiting for Jesus to come back to Earth. In all of these situations of waiting though, God has promised us greater things on the other side. He’s told us that good will come, that it’s worth waiting for, and that He always keeps his promises. And that’s why we can wait in the first place, because of that hope for greater things. Hope, after all, is much stronger than fear. Romans 5:3-4 says,
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope…
Hope is the pearl in the oyster, hope is the diamond in the rough, hope is starlight on the black canvas of night. People ask us often how we can get through loss like this, and the answer is simply hope. Jesus is our hope, Heaven is our hope. Without hope in those things, life feels meaningless and mediocre. There’s a song by Kings Kaleidoscope called Light After Darkness, and it talks about metaphors for Jesus and for hope. The lyrics go like this:
You’re light after darkness, gain after loss,
Strength after weakness, crown after cross,
Sweet after bitter, hope after fear,
Home after wandering, praise after tears.
Seeds after sowing, sun after rain,
Sight after mystery, peace after pain,
Joy after sorrow, calm after blast,
Rest after weariness, sweet rest at last.
Give me the hope of tomorrow, give me the strength for today,
You are the promise of peace on my pathway to faith.
Near after distant , gleam after gloom,
Love after loneliness, life after tomb,
After the agony, rapture of bliss,
Glory awaits beyond the abyss.
All of those statements are so true about Jesus and about our hope. No matter what we go through, we have hope waiting on the other side. There’s nothing more comforting than that fact.
Here’s the thing though: because we’re human, our emotions run strong and heavy. All we know is Earth, and so when someone leaves this place, we can’t help but feel great loss and sorrow. This grieving won’t be easy, our walk will be peppered with doubt and confusion, and life will be really, really hard without my Dad here. Our mourning and recovery won’t be wrapped up and packaged neatly, it won’t be clean, it won’t be fun. But then I think about this guy Jesus who we spend our whole lives trying to figure out, spend our whole lives trying to follow and honor, and I think about how my Dad is with him now, finally. There’s nothing left to figure out, the light is shining directly onto him. And that gives us hope, that image, and the image of us joining them some day soon. More than anything else in the world, Jesus is our hope.
We’ve also been blessed with some purely incredible friends throughout this whole thing. All of you guys have been encouraging and selfless in loving us. They say it takes a village to raise a child, but I think it takes two villages to lose one. I’m thankful for each and every one of you.
I’ll leave you with this incredible, constantly true verse from 2 Corinthians 4:
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Daily we’re made new, daily we have hope. Don’t lose heart, my friends, because this world isn’t the end, and someday we’ll stand face-to-face with the Creator of the Universe too, just like my Dad is. At long last, Home.