‘After this, I looked and saw a door that opened into heaven’ (Revelation 4:1 CEV).
I recently passed the third anniversary of the heart attack I had in Namibia during the Lutheran World Federation Assembly. Remembering their care for me at the time, I wrote to the medical team at the Roman Catholic Hospital in Windhoek. The hospital doesn’t have a website or an email address, but my message reached the heart surgeon’s office and he responded on behalf of the team.
At the time, I remember lying on the crash cart and thinking, ‘Well, if that was life, it’s now okay to let go’.
You might think that was the effect of medication, but I remember feeling calm before being given any. I felt ready to die. I just hoped the pain wouldn’t get any worse beforehand!
Well, it turned out it wasn’t my time, not just then. God must have had more for me to do.
I’m not normally given to strong feelings, yet that calmness endured for several days. The veil that separates heaven from earth had become that bit thinner and there was nothing to fear. I had glimpsed, just dimly, what, or rather who lies beyond it.
As the Bible says: ‘Now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known’ (1 Corinthians 13:12 KJV).
But our feelings aren’t reliable, and our memories can be short. The bubble had to burst. Soon enough it was time to return to Australia. That in itself was an interesting experience, as it turned out that we had unwittingly overstayed our visas. I also found out what it’s like to travel in a wheelchair.
Returning to the churchwide office after sick leave, however, it was time for me to stop dwelling on all that. There were so many people to see and so much catching up to do. Before long, life returned to almost normal.
Lately, however, while I’ve been working from home, some of those thoughts and feelings have stayed with me. Is our everyday life, with its duties, responsibilities, tasks and busyness, merely a veil we draw over our real life in Christ?
As the Lord Jesus once said to his friend, ‘Martha, Martha! You are worried and upset about so many things, but only one thing is necessary’ (Luke 10:41,42 CEV). Again, as the Bible says, ‘So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory’ (Colossians 3:1–4 NRSV).
Why did I feel so calm when facing what I thought could be my death? I believe it was the presence of Jesus Christ, my Saviour.
Gospel faith, taught to me from childhood, and around which God has built my whole life, is what calmed me. ‘God is love’, the Bible says, ‘and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them’ (1 John 4:16 NRSV).
You know, we’ll never get it perfect, not in this life. That’s why God has done everything perfectly for us (see John 19:30).
And now he waits, ready to receive us home to live with him eternally.