“Do you think I will get to Heaven?”
How many times had I driven past the driveway on my way to the beach or to a nearby baseball field, yet I had never driven into Shorecliffs Golf Club… that is, until yesterday.
A week ago, I got a call from a young man who knew me a little bit, asking if I could conduct his dad’s memorial service. Scanning, scanning … his dad … oh yes, I knew him. What the heck--Jeff… he had died?
Daily, it seems I am reminded of the fragility of life.
Sometimes you just can’t never know.
It was a sunny afternoon as I walked into the clubhouse with floor to ceiling windows of pretty manicured greens chiseled into a canyon-like setting, blocks from the Pacific. I hadn’t thought much about a memorial service at a golf club, but hey, it was Jeff’s favorite place in the world unless he was on a surfboard.
Several family members gathered in the middle of the room, while all around the edges, guys in golf shirts filled the room - several gesturing to one another, ‘Who is she? Where’d she come from?’ In short order, I answered their questions - see, Jeff had attended an early morning prayer meeting I had held in downtown San Clemente years ago. ‘Wait, Jeff?’ someone asked, surprised that he was a man of faith, I guess. ‘Yeah, and let’s be honest, no one comes to a 6.30 am prayer meeting unless they are looking to connect with God.’
We were a mismatched gaggle of people, endeavoring to honor a man who actually passed away eight months ago, the suspended emotion its own kind of strange warp. It was mine to create a space to grieve a loving man and also point folks to God. ‘Twas a blending of story, sharing, scripture and beautiful song too.
Instead of reading the beautiful verses of the beloved psalm, I first set the scene of David’s writing - rugged landscape, limestone caves, waterfalls and whimsical little animals called hyrax. I weaved together stories of the Eastern sheepherder who usually raised spindly-legged lambs into mature sheep, leading his flock to spare patches of green for nourishment and to streams of water as David described in the 23rd psalm. Ah, ‘the Lord is my Shepherd’, David declared, a foreshadowing of our Good Shepherd, the Lord Jesus. [Then I played the song at the end of this briefing.]
The entire thing could have gotten away from me completely when an ol’ guy jumped into the middle of the room and through slurred words said, ‘Ah guys - don’t be sad now, Jeff is in a better place…’ I smiled and said, ‘Hey, thanks for that - it is a perfect segue to how I wanted to close our time together. It is true. Because Jeff had a relationship with Jesus, he is in a better place; he is in his new home -- his forever home. We can know something about that place because of what is recorded in Revelation chapter 21. Then I began to describe that place where it is always light, as there is no night in heaven. The apostle John describes the beauty of the 12 foundations of the city walls adorned with precious stones such as emeralds, topaz, amethysts, and onyx… juxtaposed with the street of gold and well, it is beyond beautiful! Color is alive in Heaven it seems.
I concluded by praying over those gathered, those grieving and for those who might need to give God another chance in their lives and said “AMEN”.
And then I had several very meaningful conversations, but the one that I can’t get out of my head was with Stacey. ‘So you really think there is a Heaven?’ he queried, serious expression on his face. ‘I do. I really do.’ I broke it down from there, and then asked, ‘what about you - think you’re going to Heaven?’ ‘I hope so… no, I think so. I’m a good person - I really am. Do you think I will get to Heaven?’ ‘I don’t know. I guess I would have to ask you, based on your own thoughts, how good will you have to be--what percentage? And do you think that God grades on a curve?’ ‘Yeah, I’ve thought about that too,’ he said, landing somewhere between being perplexed and absolutely flummoxed, as three others listened in.
‘You asked, so I’m going to tell you what Jeff knew, and one day - though I will never see you again - I pray you will remember that Jesus is the way to God, he is the only way to eternal life--otherwise why did he die a grueling death? In fact, Stacey, Jesus said himself, “I am the way, the truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except by me.”* Period. Stacey, you can reach out to Jesus for relationship anytime - he’s always waiting. I’m glad I met you,’ I said and moseyed on out the door, the sun now below the tree line.
5/Pray: Dear Father, while this world can seem so dark, I am bound for Heaven! Help me to remember that as I go throughout my day, and give me opportunities to point others to you. I lift before you those I love who need you - they need salvation, some need healing, others financial solutions... Lord, increase my faith today, I pray, that I might honor you in all I do... In Jesus' name, Amen.