Dear Baby David,
As I write this, John and I are in Malawi, but I’m thinking of you.
It’s been four months since you left us.
Thanksgiving is next week and you won’t be here to play football with the family, or cook the turkey on the grill, or sit at the head of the table. You and John won’t be cleaning up in the kitchen after the feast.
And soon we will enter a new season. Snow will softly cover the ground like a Mama quietly tucking her baby in with a comforter.
I want to stop the days and the snow and the Christmas season from coming.
It feels wrong to go on without you and I keep thinking of things I wish I had talked to you about before you died.
Faith is a gift, but it’s also a choice. We choose to continue to trust that God is good in spite of this very bad thing that has happened. Very bad for us, but you not so much.
People like to say “He’s in a better place…He’s with Jesus…He’s free from pain now” and I believe it’s true, but often they’re words we say without really understanding, because, well, we’re still here – alive, but not with you.
Here’s the thing…It felt like if we talked about “IT”, we didn’t have enough faith. Like we were giving up on OUR specific preferred prayer outcome.
If we discussed the possibility of death we were opening a scary door we didn’t want to crack. Because as wonderful as life in heaven might be, we’re basically a very selfish lot who want you here.
Yes, we fully knew as we prayed for healing, not only that God COULD easily heal you in this life, but also that He MIGHT not.
His healing might come on the other side. We believe that because we trust in Jesus, Life with Him forever in heaven is ours. But we really didn’t want you to go ahead without us.
So when I heard John Ortberg preach on death and heaven in the spring, I wanted to share it with you, and talk about it, but also… I didn’t.
Ortberg quotes Ecclesiastes: “[God] has also set eternity in the human heart…” And then he says:
Everybody dies. Every creature ceases to exist, but God has set eternity in the human heart.
I think about it like this sometimes. One of the most amazing aspects of nature to me is how God has placed in animals…a kind of built-in homing instinct of incredible accuracy….
Homing pigeons, I understand, can find their way home from places they have never been on the planet so accurately they were actually used by the ancient Romans and Genghis Kahn.
Dung beetles actually navigate home by the Milky Way.
Salmon leave the ocean and travel to the exact spot on the exact river where they were born.
And then my favorite part:
The writer of Ecclesiastes says, “God has put a little homing device in your spirit.” God has set eternity in your heart and it whispers to you that death is not the end, that there is something more, that this life is not all there is, that you are not home yet, but there is a home. God has set Eternity in the human heart.
Yes, I know that homing device was in your spirit David. You totally trusted Jesus for eternal life in heaven whatever that might mean.
We really DON’T know what heaven is like, but I wish I had told you about an experience I had.
I have told barely anyone because it is impossible to find adequate words for it. But it was Very Real. It happened many years ago when John and I were first married.
Let me try to write you about it now.
I had a dream, but it was more than that. In the dream I was near the corner where Blackberry market is in Glen Ellyn now. Grandma and Grandpa were there too, but both of those details were totally inconsequential. They had no role in my dream.
I was “there”, but it wasn’t “there” in that physical spot.
And here’s where language totally fails. My dream wasn’t about what I saw or heard or where I was. All I can say is that I was infused from head to toe with an other-worldly feeling (??) I’ve never experienced before or since. It consumed my whole body and the only (inadequate) words I can use for it are a combo of “JOY” and “PEACE”.
But not really. Even as I write those words they seem lame.
It was way too much more than that. It was beyond words. I didn’t want to wake up, but as I did, I tried desperately to hold onto the sensation, shaking my husband awake to tell him. But it faded quickly and as hard as I try, I can’t summon the vivid feeling back.
Why that? Why then? Why there? I’m not a mystic at all. I’m not big on signs and wonders, but it was so real that I believe I was maybe given a tiny bit of heaven. Was it some foretaste of the Eternity the writer of Ecclesiastes says has been set in our hearts?
Does that sound presumptuous? Maybe that’s another reason why I haven’t shared it with people. I wish we had talked about it. I wish you could talk to me now and tell me what you’re experiencing with Jesus.
I think about my “heaven” experience and how I tried so hard to hold onto it as a great gift I’d been given.
As we move towards Advent, I think of Jesus giving up His home of complete Peace and Joy and entering the everyday muck of the world He created beautiful – the one we messed up. It was only by His leaving heaven and coming to die for our sins that we can take comfort in knowing you’re Home where you belong.
And so we grieve, but “not as those without hope”, and we wait for the day…
As Sarah Bessey writes, “God’s endgame is resurrection.”
And so we wait with “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow”.
We love you and we miss you,
Your big sis