I stood on a chair next to his bunk bed after that, and before we prayed for Luke, Ethan asked some tough questions. He wanted to know why people get sick, especially children. I could sense his unspoken question: why do people have to die?
As I scratched his back, I told him about Adam and Eve in the garden, and how sin and death entered the world. Then I told him that God has ordained all of our days, and he has chosen the day of our death. No matter when it happens, it's going to be the right time. I told him we don't have to fear death because we know what's waiting for us in heaven, but that it's still very hard for us to lose a loved one.
I was thankful that these were not just platitudes. Had he asked the same questions a year ago, I could not have answered with the same peaceful assurance. Last year, I asked God to set me free from my fear of death, and the way he answered was marvelous.
I'd always been a little ashamed about my fear because of course I knew that to be absent from this world is to be present with Jesus in heaven. Still, I couldn't shake the fear of the unknown: When would I die? How would I die? Would it be a violent or painful death? What would happen after I was gone? I couldn't bear the thought of not being here. I wanted to go to heaven, but not YET!
The Dream - Excerpt From My Journal, 2/25/08
I had a dream this morning. The only part I remember is this....
I was hesitating at the threshold of a door. I wanted to go through, but I was afraid. I thought, "But I don't know what's on the other side."
I heard God answer, "Yes, you do."
I realized then, not in the dream, but as if a narrator had explained it, that this was the moment of my death. I was trembling with nervousness, but I opened the door and stepped in. What I saw was painted walls, like a bedroom, I think. It was a warm, yellow color. And I opened my arms wide and accepted God's love into my whole being. I was covered in peace.
"You have crossed the veil," God explained, a smile in his voice.
Then I woke up. "I want to cross the veil now," I answered, vaguely remembering the way I had explained to a friend recently that I felt so close to God, yet perceived a veil between us. [I wrote about this in a recent blog entry.]
This dream comforted me on two levels. For one thing, I'm tired of fearing death. I suppose I will always fear the physical pain that might accompany death, but God has assured me--especially through my latest memory passage--that he will be with me through every trial: passing through water or walking through fire. I think of how he comforted me through my labor and delivery when I had Allyson, and how it made the pain more bearable. The pain didn't go away, but God gave me the strength to endure it.
The second way the dream comforted me was the foretaste of surrendering completely to God's love. It gave me hope that I can step through that veil before I die....
Lord, my heart longs to cross the veil that hinders me from experiencing the fullness of your love. I don't know how to cross it. Please show me. Please change my heart and cast out my fear with your perfect love.
After I wrote this, I felt led to kneel on the living room floor. I knelt on a throw pillow and rested my forehead on my crossed arms. I prayed for several minutes, asking God to help me cross the veil. I poured out my longing to him and asked him to let me experience his love so I could share it with others.
I immediately thought of [several friends] and began to pray for them and their families. I cried so much that my nose was dripping....
I wanted so much to to have some definitive experience that would let me know I had "prayed through," but I felt an assurance that God would keep working on me, that it didn't have to happen all at once.
So I got up and walked to the kitchen to blow my nose. I glanced in front of me and saw yellow walls. Could it have been our kitchen that I saw in the dream?
I stood in front of the window seat and closed my eyes as the sun shone down on my face. Through my eyelids, I could see a yellow glow. As in my dream, I opened my arms and accepted God's love.
I don't know that I experienced anything new, but I know I can't base my faith on my emotions. So I'm believing that this intensified desire is God calling me, and that my obedience to his call is going to change me in his time. I choose to be obedient to whatever work God calls me to.
Preparing For Battle
On April 9, 2008, we met for our last Bible study of the semester. We did an in-depth study of heaven. It was amazing. I guess I'd never really thought about how wonderful it would be because I was too busy worrying about dying. But it really is something to look forward to, to long for.
The most important thing is to be with God and see his face clearly. I will be worshiping him face to face among other believers from every nation. God himself will wipe away every tear from my eye.
Here are just a few of the verses we studied:
- Philippians 1:23-24
- 2 Corinthians 5:8
- Isaiah 65:17-19
- Revelation 7:16-17
- Revelation 21:1-4
- Revelation 21:18-24
God's timing was perfect. Just a couple of weeks later, I went through a big scare with my heart. I was having unexplained shortness of breath that I thought was related to my mitral valve prolapse. I went through some severe anxiety and had to confront my fear of death head on--and God was with me every step of the way. In the end, I felt truly at peace with the idea of dying. But that's another story....