Goshen News, Goshen, IN

November 18, 2013

GROUNDS FOR INSANITY: Heaven shines down during death of neighbor


Goshen News

---- — “It looks like heaven’s shining down.” That’s what he says, my little boy with eyes of clearest blue. It’s Sunday morning, and we’re on our way to church.

I look up, to the left, and sure enough. In a sky covered over with a blanket of gray, I see it. There’s a slit, a tear in the clouds to the east, looking for all the world as though heaven’s floor has split fair open, and the glory, it’s shining down.

Like that, my thoughts return to the day we just had. On a crisp, fall morning beneath a bright, blue sky, our neighbor flew to heaven amidst glorious autumn leaves, angels attending his passage.

Glancing up from my work, I’d seen movement in the yard and sent a son to check. He’d burst back into the house, shouting, “Mom, they’re doing CPR. It’s a man!” Heart pounding, I’d dashed to join him and the effort already underway. Kneeling there in the grass beside our stricken neighbor, prayers formed instant on lips. Asking help. Mercy. Grace.

Despite the valiant efforts of the stranger who’d come and my own son, it was not to be. He was gone. Graduated. Walked into eternity as November sun shone down. Raising my face to the sky, brilliant in its blue, I knew the utter peace amidst chaos that comes to his children. And the peace, as he’d promised, passed all understanding.

That night, still reeling, I’d slipped into bed with my littlest boy. Warming there beneath his comforter, we talked about heaven. We spoke of new bodies. Talked of the happiness of those who go, of the sadness of those who stay.

In the darkness of his room, we prayed for our neighbors two doors down and asked for the peace of the Savior. I answered his questions the best I knew how, seizing these teachable moments. As his eyelids grew heavy, I marveled aloud that one day, God would gather all of his kids together with him. And that, we said to each other, would be always. Forever. In heaven with Jesus to stay.

All of this, I’m remembering on the way to the church as I look at the rent in heaven’s floor. Rays of light, finger like, stretch golden through clouds, touching farmland, houses and trees. Heaven, shining down to the earth.

Death. Life. Days that are numbered. Disparate threads weaving a whole. For life is uncertain, but death — oh, that’s sure. And our days, well, they do have a number.

We can’t live forever down here on this earth. It’s certain that we shall all die. The question is when, and that’s followed by how, and no one but God knows the answers.

Another question remains, and that one is this: How will we spend our days here? For a person can live, move, breathe, have his being without ever truly having lived. What a waste. And how tragic, but of some, this is true. But that is not what was intended.

We were made for a purpose. That’s what God’s word says. We are here at this time for a reason. To love God (that’s first) and then to love others. This is our primary mission.

The wonderful news is that God loved us first, even before we loved him. “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God.” This, according to John. We’ve been chosen by God and adopted by him. Fully loved, fully known, truly gifted.

When we say the glad “yes” to his knock on the door, that’s when the living begins. As one of his kids, our joy overflows, and it splashes cool, free, onto others. Peace, too, comes, then love with forgiveness and grace, and it changes the ways of our living. We start to seek giving instead of the getting, and folks close around us get blessing.

The day that Randy died, there were two others who came. At the house right next door, a crew was hard at work, installing a new chain-link fence. Hearing cries for help, one of them went running and, falling to his knees, began performing CPR. His co-worker, a kind woman in denim, ran, too, and stood by the road to flag the ambulance. Then, with such compassion and care, she moved to comfort his daughter.

On a cold Monday morning, three days later, my son and I had the beautiful privilege of shaking hands and looking into the eyes of two day laborers from a fencing company. These men ran to the aid of a stranger and gave what they knew to give. They had no claim to fame or greatness other than this, that they helped fellow humans in distress.

“It looks like heaven’s shining down.” And it is. Oh, it is. In cups of cold water. In the touch of a hand. In the sacrificial giving to a stranger in need, that’s how heaven comes down. Sometimes, God (I know now) comes in coveralls and jackets. Comes in boots, comes with love, heaven touching the earth.