“It’s time for me to go Home, Baby…” The weakened voice on the other end strained hoarse vocal chords to announce what we thought was one last time. If I hadn’t been participating in this ongoing conversation with my spiritual mother, I would have been confused about her meaning.
See, she’s been ill, tossed from hospital to rehab and back to hospital, as she had a heart attack yesterday. Kidney function diminished, and the rest of her temple started to close up shop and agree that it was transition time. But… her organs suddenly shifted and miraculously began performing at a higher level than previously.
I’ve heard her “death talk” before, and I have grieved this eventual circumstance long before now. In other conversations, her announcement has butted against my customary resistance.
Today, however, was different. Her farewell embodied a living eulogy. While it has been difficult to receive, I’m now in a different place with this reality.
I acknowledge that the time is close, and not because of any particular health threat. As believers in Christ Jesus, we are citizens of another, Heavenly Kingdom. Plainly put, we did not come earthside to stay.
Unlike years past, I’m no longer trying to talk her out of talking about “it,” that is, death, anymore. For five years she has edified, trained, sharpened me through our fellowship.
On the almost-eve of her 81st birthday and preparation for Home, I am coming alongside her amidst this transition, through the valley of the shadow of death, guided by Our Shepherd Himself. Instead of cursing it, I count it a blessing to traverse the last leg of her journey with her. Part of that is simply being present: to love, laugh, pray, talk about the Lord and life like we always have.
This prompts my imagination to wonder how Elisha felt when Elijah was expected to leave this earth, not by death, but rather by divine lift in a fire chariot. Long before, Elisha had kissed his parents goodbye, burning the path to former things when he set ablaze his family’s oxen and farming equipment.
Turn back? Nah… It was never an option…Neither for the protege at the outset, nor the mentor at lift-off. After whirlwinds of miracles, signs, and wonders, Elijah, the one who mantled and trained Elisha, and became father and family, was preparing for certain and sudden departure for Home.
When I think of that connection in light of my own, questions surface: Did Elisha feel the threat of abandonment? Overwhelmed by the ‘what ifs’ of Elijah’s imminent transition? Adequate to walk out his assignment without his mentor?
These queries bring to mind other Biblical conversations about separation and loss. For example, How did Christ’s disciples process as Jesus repeatedly announced His death–meal after meal, walk after walk, lakeside encounter and teaching session after another? Between the black and red-lettered verses, I sandwich myself in the evolution of those exchanges, imagining the range of emotion of those close enough to grasp His baton and receive the Savior’s mantle.
Envision with me his followers’ elation at the beginning of their journey. “Suddenly” had erupted! “Messiah had come!” The Word had put on a flesh suit and dwelt among men after four centuries of silence from Heaven.
Generations of prophecy collided with Jesus’ contemporaries. The Father’s eternal plan combusted with time to pass the baton and the mantle of heaven and extend it to the earth, converting orphans into daughters and sons.
Enter another “suddenly.” Three and a half years with Jesus vaporized while another reality with the promised Holy Spirit evanesced. What were the followers to expect? One might think that as their worlds were turned upside down, that those same sons and daughters then turned the world upside down with the power activated in them.
What is being turned upside down in us? What do we then turn upside down?
As I consider these questions, I remember that I was not a participant in the conversation the Father had with Mama. He didn’t notify me or gauge my opinion about bringing His daughter Home. That alone turned me upside down, disrupting my errant thinking that God “owed” me explanation for His Sovereign privilege.
Since I have been turned upside down, I am compelled to turn some things upside down. I hear Holy Spirit clarifying what that means. Pick up the baton! Put on the mantle! It means that I must walk out my own covenant and kingdom assignment, clear every life hurdle and press toward the prize at the finish.
Write His Heart, and keep writing. That’s my prescription. Just as Jesus touched many who were healed “as they went,” I am increasingly aware that the Lord is administering healing for me in the ‘going’ and in the ‘doing.’
It is in this place with the Holy Spirit that I release my grief of the living and the dead to the Comforter. I take courage and comfort under the shelter of His Wings, remembering that the hurt is essential to the heal. I look to Scripture, peppered with intertwining stories of apparent, yet temporary loss and burgeoning, enduring renewal.
- Elisha followed Elijah until he was caught away in a sky-bound chariot.
- John the Baptist decreased, so that the Savior would increase.
- Jesus transfigured, commissioned His followers, and later gifted them (and all of us who believe) with the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.
- Paul offered the benediction that he had finished his course.
This leads me deeper into meditation with the Lord. Since I don’t “get it” with grief, I have to ask the One who knows it all. What is the mystery behind the Father regarding the death of his saints as ‘precious?’ (Psalm 116:15) What is He saying? What does He intend for present grief and pain?
As I ruminate on these and other examples of loved ones gone ahead, Holy Spirit breaks the cloud of fog and heaviness with the brilliance of revelation. He says, “greater and glorious awaits on the other side of eternity.”
Just as the farewells described in this article have marked temporary separation, there is anticipation of divine reunion, far more than our longing for those departed. We desire to be with God in our eternal Home.
Heaven’s other citizens long for reunion with us! All of heaven rejoices in the soul that has returned Home, having completed its mandate and entered into the fullness of redemptive rest. Abba Father, Himself, longs for unrestricted, eternal fellowship with us in the Heavenly Home that Jesus has prepared for us.
This is so important to the Father. He has reserved for Himself exclusive knowledge of one day soon when another “suddenly” will erupt. When the archangel’s trumpet pierces the atmosphere, Jesus will appear for those who died in Him and the believers that remain. Believers snatched from mortality. Holy Spirit extracted entirely out of the earth. We will all remain in our eternal Home to eventually reign with Jesus Christ, King of Kings forever.
That future rapture of the saints is comforting, but I’ll be honest with you about the right-now pain and grief that toggles between my throat and chest. In the meantime, I have asked the Lord for a dream or vision to let me know when my spiritual Mama passes, so I don’t have to hear it first from anyone else. No dream yet, so I picked up my phone and dialed…(856)…
Phone to voicemail. I have not heard the update from the Lord or anyone else for that matter, so I decided to try again several days later…
Tried again. She picked up! We talked as if it were a regular Thursday. I shared the words I felt compelled to convey. I didn’t lose anything by trying to reach out just one more time; and “since Mama was still here,” I consoled myself, “I’m going to ride it out as long as I can…” That is, keep connecting until her final assignment is complete…the one she keeps referring to… and then she’ll really be gone… until we meet again.
I am not looking to draw one more drop of wisdom, even though it happens every time we speak for what seems like the last. I want nothing, but to serve and give and pour cool water on her the way Elisha did his predecessor (2 Kings 3:11). I want to bring our favorite servings of laughs and words to savor and strengthen. I want to walk through whatever not-so-final conversations, days, moments, prayers we have, enveloped by the joy of the Lord, grateful hearts, prayerful spirits.
The Holy Spirit walks us through this valley of the shadow of death, comforting in His kind way, reassuring that her labor is not in vain. She has planted seeds in my life. While much has bloomed “early” and flourished abundantly, there remains more covert and dormant fruit, ready to break the surface, awaiting its due season debut. He nudges me that my labor of love is also fruitful. I have been privileged to turn and serve her, thereby marking these days of passing batons, preparing mantles, and such…
She may not remain to see the fullness of fruit concerning what she has spoken into my life, but Hebrews’ writer reminds me that there is a great cloud of witnesses that cheer all of us on in our race (Hebrews 12:1). She will soon join them, and I hope that along with her reward and crown, Jesus allows her to see how her life pointed back to Him…even as she was running the home stretch, ready to pass the baton and transfer the mantle, entering into eternal rest.
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