Every so often, we have one of those moments when we get a glimpse of something just beyond the pale, something so other-worldly that we know it can’t be part of this realm. Just for a moment, we catch sight of something that our limited minds just can’t quite grasp, like the whisper of a butterfly’s wings slipping through our fingers. It teases the edges of our minds, taunting us with its beauty and grace, yet dissipating like a fog that burns away in the morning sun. One of my favorite Christian authors calls these moments “windows of the soul”. I think of it as a lifting of the veil.
When our oldest daughter was about three years old, we attended a baptism. Molly was very quiet throughout the preliminaries, with big brown eyes solemnly taking it all in. Suddenly, just as the person was raised up out of the water, she threw her hands to the sky and exclaimed, “Mommy, look! Do you see them? They’re playing banjos!” She pointed excitedly at the air above the baptistry and continued to describe what she was seeing, while we looked stupidly at the empty space and questioningly at each other. Later, after she was safely tucked in her bed, my husband and I began to hesitantly question each other. “Did you see anything?” “You don’t think it could have been…well, angels?” “And banjos? Do you really think they play banjos?” It just didn’t fit with our conservative, somewhat stodgy church upbringing, yet we couldn’t deny the absolute rapture on the face of our precious daughter.
When our middle child, our son, was also about three years old, we took a vacation to California with the grandparents to introduce our children to the wonders of the ocean and, of course, Disneyland. Unfortunately, that vacation will go down in family lore as the vacation from, well, you-know-where. Noah had come down with croup in the days just before we departed, and coupled with his severe asthma, the vacation began with a 4 am nebulizer treatment to restore his breathing. The plane trip was a disaster, with him crouping and gasping the entire trip, and making frequent use of the so-thoughtfully-provided waste bag. Our accommodations turned out to be not quite the lovely seaside rental house that was pictured on the Internet, but a filthy, run-down shack on the beach, complete with 2nd story windows with no screens to prevent our 3 small children from tumbling to the ground (and no air conditioning, of course). At some point during our week, we ended up making a late-night, panicked trek across San Diego to the Children’s Hospital with our barely-breathing son. We spent the entire night in the Emergency Room, finally heading home late the next morning. Within about 15 minutes of arriving back at our beach house, we were hurriedly rushing him back to the hospital, where he endured more breathing treatments, steroid shots and x-rays until he finally fell sound asleep on the table while they poked and prodded. We finished out the week, managing (barely) to take Noah to his long-anticipated Legoland, and then headed home with great sighs of relief. My mother earned my life-long awe with her simple statement, “It was a wonderful vacation, honey. Thanks for taking us!”
A few days later, after we had settled back into life in sunny Colorado, I was sitting with Noah after administering yet another nebulizer treatment. He looked up at me with his sweet, cherubic face and asked, “Mama, when I go to heaven, will I get sick anymore?” I swallowed hard and answered, “No, honey…in heaven you’ll never be sick again.” He thought for a moment and then continued, “Mama, in heaven will I cough anymore?” I assured him that Jesus would certainly take away all his coughing, too. Next came, “Mama,” (every sentence started with Mama in those days!), “do you know what the best thing about heaven is going to be?” I smoothed his blonde hair away from his big brown eyes and said, “What, honey?”, fully expecting the answer to be something like, “I won’t be sick anymore” or “You won’t tell me not to run” (since running always made him cough). Instead, he looked up at me with wonder in his eyes and said, “I’m gonna get to see Jesus’ face.” I could not speak around the lump in my throat and the wonder in my soul as the veil lifted and I got a glimpse of heaven, provided by my three-year-old son.
Several years later, I sat beside my youngest daughter, Lexi, who was looking at a picture story Bible. She gave several deep sighs and glanced up at me with a troubled expression. When I questioned her, she turned to me and with tears rolling down her cheeks, she said, “Look, Mommy. Look what they did to him.” She showed me the page where she was sadly studying a picture of Jesus on the cross and then threw herself in my arms and sobbed. My heart was touched with wonder as, again, the veil lifted and Jesus showed himself to me through the eyes of a child. My heart was pierced as I realized anew the magnitude of the gift given for me.
One of the most recent moments came at the funeral of my beloved grandmother last year. One of the most difficult things I’ve ever done was to sing at her funeral, yet I knew that she would have loved having her family honor her in such a way. She was one of the most precious people in the world to me, and her passing left a hole in my heart the size of Texas. As we sang the beautiful song “Come to Jesus”, our daughter, Molly, came out all dressed in white and performed a worship dance. Again, the world seemed to tilt a little as I felt transported, and instead of just one lone dancer, my mind imagined a whole company of angels dancing as they welcomed my grandmother home. We sang the final verse, “And with your final heartbeat /Kiss the world goodbye / Then go in peace, and laugh on Glory's side, and / Fly to Jesus / Fly to Jesus / Fly to Jesus and live!” The tears coursed down my face, but my heart exulted in knowing that she was finally free from the misery of illness and aging, and that she was safe in Jesus’ arms.
Now I don’t know if angels really play banjos, but I do know this…Jesus will return someday and that veil will be lifted one last time. Only, this time, it will stay lifted, and we will see things that we are incapable of even imagining now. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait.
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