My friend Emily is doing exactly that.
I say ‘friend’ a little loosely, because while I went to the same school as she and her other three siblings, and even knew the family well, my younger sister was much closer to each sibling.
That’s usually how it is with our grade school though, once you get in and get connected, you’re family for life.
Emily is their youngest daughter, and second youngest child, and through a car accident over the weekend, is looking into the eyes of Jesus.
From what I know of Emily, she was a free spirited, cheerful, compassionate to everyone, beautiful soul, who loved life and reached people with the message of Jesus and love in a unique way.
Upon hearing the news, my sister and I both start weeping. As more hours pass, the seemingly endless flow of tears fades slightly, and it then comes in waves.
In my honesty to Holy Spirit, I wonder if she was in pain, and pray she wasn’t. I ask for the most tangible of God’s presence with each family member and close friend. I imagine what she must be experiencing – whole, beautiful, gazing into the eyes of Love and Light, Father and Friend.
I then am prompted to focus on reality: this life, birth to our last day on this earth, is fragile, fleeting, temporary, and not where we truly belong.
And I ask, Father… do I love You more than this life?
Fear makes an attempt at my mind, shouting that I don’t know what’s around the corner, that things can seem hopeless. Anxiety makes a stab at my heart, threatening to move in and make itself at home, telling me to white-knuckle hold on people and my own effort, to avoid pain (which we all know is impossible).
But He is there. Letting me run through my feelings, letting me race through my self-reflection, wrestling with lies to embrace Truth.
I write in my journal,
being with You is what You have always wanted for me, what You still want for me.
being with You has been Your plan from the very beginning in the garden. it’s why You sent Jesus, it’s why You made a way.
thank You for the gift of Your Spirit, a gift of love, to be present with me constantly now. a part of You, to be my life Companion until the day I arrive at Your true side.
leaving this life is how that happens for me. dying here means being there, being home, with You.
“Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world,” Jesus says (John 17:24).
I ask for His help, because I sometimes have a hard time putting all the wonders of this life, as marvelous and beautiful and lovely as they are, in their proper places. There are so many joys that we get to taste here — family, friends, adventures. And I am a deep feeler, an emotional, passionate being. I soak up life with my whole self, and am unabashed in it.
But I know, in the gut of my soul, that nothing can compare to the pure delight of unbroken, constant fellowship with Jesus.
I needed a new mindset. A new perspective. And something about picturing Emily at His side, walking Heaven’s grounds, radiating peace, love and joy, is profound.
It’s still incredibly, incredibly difficult. We lose temporarily, because we aren’t There yet. While some are There, many are here. Thankfully, He is with us in our confusion, He is present in our anger and pain. He is near when we are broken, and He surrounds us as we grieve.
But one thing is sure, a glorious reality, that the worst of the worst for each of us, death, delivers us to our greatest Love, our forever Home, to the side of our Heavenly Father.
Friends who knew Emily, friends who have lost a loved one… shed tears to fill buckets, but remember that these streams of tears running down our faces will beam a little with joy when we continue to see our loved one’s death as an answer to Jesus’ prayer in John 17 of being with Him to see His glory.
This may turn out to be one of the greatest tests of faith, so I encourage you, and myself, to lean in to God, pour out your heart to Him, and cling to His Words.
I don’t always do it well, but He says even my mustard seed faith is enough.
Jesus grieved himself so that we will never have to endure hopeless grief in the face of death.
“For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better…… Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News. Don’t be intimidated in any way by your enemies. This will be a sign to them that they are going to be destroyed, but that you are going to be saved, even by God himself. For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. We are in this struggle together. You have seen my struggle in the past, and you know that I am still in the midst of it.” Paul in Philippians 1