Most of us Christians want to know what that day is going to be like when we enter death and then are brought back to life to stand before our Lord and King, resurrected into something new and wonderful.
Well, I don't know. Sorry.
But I do have some thoughts based loosely on my earthly experiences, of which death and resurrection are not so distant possibilities.
I could have died this week. That's not hyperbole. That's not a stretch of the imagination. And it's not the first time. I try not to talk much about my personal life on this blog because what I want you to see in this space is God, but I hope that as I share this particular story that you will see Him in an important and powerful way.
On Wednesday night, I went into anaphylactic shock. For nearly three hours, emergency room staff worked diligently just to get the reaction to stop so that my body could start coming out of it. (At this point, I should say that I live with a condition that causes anaphylactic reactions, which can occur at essentially any time for essentially any reason and sometimes for no reason at all. Most of the time, this is manageable with the tools that my medical team has given me, and trips to the ER are very rare. Wednesday was one of those rare days.)
Once I'm that out of control, there's not a lot that I can do, and darkness comes to settle over me like a heavy cloud. There's usually at least one person in the room whose job it is to try to talk to me, to try to keep me engaged, but the vast majority can only talk about me. I can hear them. "Can she....? No, she can't do that right now. Is she...? Yes...." And there's this very real sense of a world at a distance, an entire group of people who are trying to hold on at the same time they are letting go.
Hours later, there comes this moment - this moment where it's finally going to be okay. And it's always the same moment. It's always hilariously, beautifully the same moment. It comes with a deep breath, a little smile, and tremendous joy as this person, these persons, who have worked so hard to keep you alive welcome you back to the realm of the living. I still remember thirteen years ago when it was a male doctor standing at the foot of my bed, putting his clipboard down after more than 8 long hours of my own unconsciousness, relieved to be able to look at me again. This past week, it was the moment when the doctor who had been treating me didn't stop at the curtain, but came fully into the room and stood next to me. Smiling. Breathing. Elated.
If you've seen Apollo 13, you know this moment. It's the moment when the capsule is re-entering the atmosphere and the crew goes into this long communicative blackout and everyone in mission control is holding their breath for what turns out to be a lot longer than any of them had anticipated. And then, there's this little crackle - just a little static - but it's essentially the best noise in all the world. Yeah, death and life - it's that moment.
It's this kind of moment that I imagine that resurrection must be like. Not just in the way that death and darkness are lifted, which is incredible in and of itself, but in the way that all of a sudden, we see God face-to-face. And this Lord, this God, this Creator who has invested so much, so very, very much, in saving us sees His work pay off. He sees it worth it. Right before His very eyes. And we see in His eyes just how hard it was, just how grueling, just how emotionally taxing and existentially exhausting. But He's smiling. Breathing. Elated.
He pulls back the curtain, puts down the clipboard, steps into the room, which doesn't feel as ominous or dark or heavy as it once did, and He simply says, Welcome back.
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