On my visit to the ER January 27, my hiccupping heart required electrical shock to get it beating normally. They put something into the IV on my arm that made me “feel sleepy” so I shut my eyes, then opened them. The procedure was done!
When describing this to a friend, she said, “That is what it will be like when we die, you know.” I think she could be right. We close our eyes in this place and open them in the presence of Jesus.
Today’s devotional reading is about this walk with God from life here to life in eternity. It takes thoughts from two verses about Abraham. In the first, Abraham began by obeying the Lord. He left everything he knew and followed as the Lord led him.
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. (Genesis 12:1)
The next verse describes the end of his life. This man of faith was taken to his real home and his real kindred.
Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people. (Genesis 25:8)
The devotional reading is from Alexander Maclaren’s lovely words about life here and life there. He reminds me that each believer is called away from this world to a new citizenship. With that comes a vague or even a sharp sense of isolation. However, that will be over when we get to our real home. Here is what he said:
After all communion we dwell as upon islands, dotted over a great archipelago, each upon his little rock with the sea dashing between us; but the time comes when, if our hearts are set upon that great Lord whose presence makes us one, there shall be no more sea and all the isolated rocks shall be parts of a great continent.… If we cultivate that sense of detachment from the present and of having our true affinities in the unseen, if we dwell here as strangers because our citizenship is in heaven, then death will not drag us away from our associates nor hunt us into a lonely land, but will bring us where closer bonds shall knit the “sweet societies” together, and the sheep shall couch close by one another because all gathered round the one Shepherd. Then many a tie shall be re-woven, and the solitary wanderer meet again the dear ones whom he had “loved long since and lost awhile.”
These poignant thoughts touch me deeply today. I went to one of the finest heart hospitals in the world and had tests and an examination by a cardiologist. He told me that my childhood Rheumatic Fever left me with a leaky mitral valve, which I knew. It seemed well when tested a few years ago, but since then that leak has caused the atrium to be excessively enlarged, which is very likely the cause of my a-fib hiccups. This failure to properly pump the blood can be assisted with medications, but it cannot be fixed.
What does this mean? It means that my walk with Jesus Christ involves a reality --- this life is short, a mere blip on the time continuum. It means that I must cultivate that sense of detachment from this present world and firmly fix my affinity on the unseen. I have a promise from God that the Bible calls a future hope and home that has been guaranteed by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It means also that my home-going will likely be heart related.
This assessment was given to me 2-3 hours ago. At first, I felt shocked, but instead of those stages of grief (such as denial, anger and bargaining), I began thinking about two verses. One is an anchor that gives me comfort, a verse that I memorized years ago and have thought of often in the past month.
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:26)
The second verse is about death, dying, and how people grieve. I learned this verse after my first experience at a Christian funeral. It was an amazing and joyful celebration. Yes, those left behind were sad “because we miss him” but so glad that “he is in a most marvelous place.”
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. (1 Thessalonians 4:13)
Christians grieve, but not the crying and wailing that go with an uncertain future. I am grieving that my health is not going to improve. I even feel tearful and sobered. I did not expect this. Yet there is an amazing inner peace, even joy. What is that? It can only be the Lord Jesus Christ who is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Oh Lord, I expected the doctor to suggest a procedure that would fix the erring electrical impulses. Last I knew, that leaky valve was so insignificant that the radiologist could hardly see the problem. This change in status is a surprise for me, but not for You. You gave me Psalm 73:26 long before the heart hiccups started. You gave me assurance of a heavenly home when You first came into my life. And today, You had a devotional in place to remind me that my true residence is not here, but with You and Your people in eternity. I don’t know what is next, but I’m certain of one thing: You have a path for my feet and will guide me each step of the way.