Today I Saw God
" I think that we humans don't have the capacity to imagine eternity, Mom" said my ninth-grade daughter Joanne. "If we can think of it a little bit, we may live differently."
This short conversation recently grabbed my attention. My daughter's English class had been reading and discussing the book "Dante's Inferno." She was assigned a small group project that explored the different levels of hell as described in the book. When she spoke about her class, she mentioned how she was scared about the conditions of hell portrayed in the book. The most unbearable thing to her was the eternal pain, whether the pain was from a little pinch or painful burning. I agreed with her but also encouraged her to think about the eternal joy on the opposite side: heaven, which is given to us through Jesus.
Lately I have been thinking about this conversation and the word "eternity." Even though I call myself a Christian, l don't usually think about the eternal life while I am living my daily earthbound life. I often live moment by moment and easily forget my final destination.
When I was in fifth grade, my Sunday school teacher taught us about salvation, which leads us to have eternal life in heaven. We learned not only about eternal life in heaven, but also about eternal life in hell. I took it very seriously and started praying everyday for my dad and family who didn't believe in Christ at that time. I was devastated because I loved them so much, and I wanted them to be saved. I brought my best friends to church with me as much as I could because I truly believed in eternal life, whether in heaven or hell.
However, as I got older, having been a Christian for a while, my thoughts about eternal life dulled. The joy of salvation became a phrase instead of a condition in my heart. I can't remember the last time I invited nonbelievers to church or even shared the good news.
I have a reasonable excuse not to do these things often. Because I work at a church, I hardly encounter nonbelievers on a daily basis. Still, I know that is just an excuse. I deceive myself in many ways, making myself believe that I have done my best so far. But I know that is not true.
So, how can I invite people to church so they too have a chance to enjoy eternal life in heaven?
One of ways God showed me recently was through a children's music camp. We all have neighbors, co-workers or friends who don't believe in Christ or who don't know who Christ is. And one way we could introduce them to Christ is by inviting their children to experience a little taste of heaven by singing, playing instruments and learning about other cultures all around the world. An experience like that could show them that God holds the world in his hands.
I pray that Floris UMC's Children's Music Camp in August could be an opportunity to provide a glimpse of eternal life to children who may share their experience with others, just like I did with my friends and family as a child.
I truly know how powerful it is to share the good news of Jesus Christ. I believe that God heard my prayers for my dad when I was young. Though he was not a believer then, he became a strong believer later in his life. I am deeply grateful for my Sunday school teacher who taught me about eternal life.
I would like to invite you to share this good news with the children. I wish as I grew older that I had kept that passion about eternal life in heaven. If I did, I would have lived differently each day. But, it is never too late to help others and yourself.
As a psalmist prays in Psalm 51, I pray, "Restore to me the joy of salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me."
A coincidence is defined as, "a remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances without apparent causal connection with each other." There are times in my life when the "apparent causal connection" is what theologians call "the prompting of the Holy Spirit." For example, one afternoon I decided to stop at the CVS Pharmacy. As I closed the car door I noticed a friend who was walking away from her car, and it was still running! It turns out she had just come from the hospital, her child was asleep in the car and she needed to pick up his chemo prescription. I ended up sitting in the running car while she went to fill the prescription. I had not originally planned to stop at the store but did so because a thought came to me, "You're driving by this CVS; just stop in here." How was it that I was at that CVS at the very moment that she needed help? I wonder if she may have asked God in desperation, "What am I going to do here?" For me, in these moments when love and compassion are shared, when two people experience the connection we all share in Christ, it seems easy to credit the work of the Holy Spirit.
I experienced something this summer that falls into the category of coincidence. My Dad was in the hospital, and we had just finished a long conversation about his desire to have a "reasonable death." The conversation was difficult and yet at the same time so typical of my father to talk about goals and process. It was a beautiful, humidity-free summer day so when I went down for lunch I decided to walk around the hospital campus. I figured all I had to do was keep turning right and I would find my way back. As I turned the third corner I had this sense that I needed to turn back. I kept walking but the feeling became even stronger. Not one to ignore my gut feelings, I turned around.
As I walked back up the very same sidewalk that I had just been down, I happened to look down. There it was: a plastic Coke bottle with the name, "Ryan." For any other person that name might mean nothing, but to me it was the name of my nephew who died suddenly at age 19 while home from college. I stopped and stared at it for a long time. I even took a picture because, really, who's going to believe me?
I found great comfort in the presence of that Coke bottle. It reminded me that Dad would be in heaven with others I have loved and lost. It even gave me a sense that God knew my pain and that God would be walking with us through this. Of course anyone who wants to can explain this away as happenstance, but for me, to see that Coke bottle on that difficult day in July, well, it was heaven breaking into my worldif only for a moment. It was a reminder of God's gracious love and the promise of eternal life.