My mum loves to travel. My dad hated traveling. I’m somewhere in between.I don’t mind traveling but I find travel more inviting if I get to visit with friends.This is especially true when I am visiting places for the first time.
There are few things that beat seeing a familiar welcoming face at a strange airport.
A familiar face waiting for us at the airport. I see this as a metaphor for dying in Christ.
Death has been very much on my mind. I have at least four friends who lost loved ones recently. It’s that stage of our lives I guess. At middle age my friends and I will be spending more and more time attending the weddings of our children. And the funerals of our parents. (And if dad and mum goes guess who is up next.)
The bible has things to say about the life to come.Unfortunately it struggles to describe a place that is outside of time to a people who live in linear time. And it is describing a perfect place to a people who dwell in a world corrupted by sin.
So the best it can do is speak in the language of metaphor, of streets paved with gold of life giving rivers etc. We are left guessing as to what our final destination will
really be like. But there is no doubt as to who will be waiting for us.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God trust also in me. My Father’s house has plenty of room; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” [John 14:1-2 TNIV]
We may not know much about the life to come. But the above verses tell me a number of things.
One, it tells me that when I do make that final journey, I will go to a place where I am expected. I will go to a place specially prepared. No mass production here. I will go to a place that I will recognize as the home that I have been searching for all my life.
Next it tells me that I do not have to worry about whether I will be able to find my way there or whether I will be able to find my way around once I get there. Jesus will be my
So Jesus’s word to us is “do not let your hearts be troubled.” And Paul says: “Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. ” [1Thessalonians 4:13]
Paul doesn’t say that we shouldn’t grieve. The tears, the pain of separation, they are part of the God permitted response to loss. Even Jesus, truly God, truly human, wept [John 11:35]. I think it is just plain stupid to tell people who have lost a loved one, “don’t cry” or “it’s all right.”
It is not all right. I have lost someone I care for deeply. And even if this person has died in the Lord I won’t see him or her again this side of heaven. I miss him/her terribly. Don’t take my tears away. They are part of my journey to healing.No Paul doesn’t say that we are not to grieve.
But he does say that we shouldn’t grieve as those without hope. Beneath the saccharinish hyperbole of things usually said and sung during wakes and funerals there is a bedrock of truth. Jesus comes for those who are His and leads them to a place that is specially home for them.
So, it is perfectly all right and perhaps even expected that Christian funerals should be marked both by tears and by joy. Such was the case of a wake I attended recently. There were tears. The deceased was much loved. There will be a vacuum this side of heaven that will never be filled again.
Yet there was much joy and laughter too. The wake was also a celebration of a life well lived and the prospect of a reunion yet to come, and the certainty of a loved one who had graduated to her destiny.
So to all who have lost loved ones recently (and my own dad’s passing doesn’t seem all that long ago) let us hold firmly to God and to His truth in a time of surging conflicting emotions. There is much that we do not know about the final journey our friends have undertaken. But if they have died in Christ we know who is their host and guide. They are in safe and sure hands.
And as we ponder on our own mortality let us be reminded that when it is our time to go, we will not travel alone. The Lord that we know is the same Lord that awaits us and who will lead us home. We know who is waiting at the airport.