My sister and I took our dogs to the beach this afternoon to walk the wave line and enjoy the 5:20 sunset. While the dogs romped in the dunes, we watched the sky turn colors from the comfy perch of two abandoned chairs nestled in the beach grasses.
“Do you think Nate can see this sunset from the other side?” Mary asked.
Her question precipitated a lively discussion about where Nate is now and what he’s experiencing. We wondered if he had any remaining interest in earthly things. As the sun moved closer to the watery horizon and the temperature began to drop, we zipped up our coats, scrunched down in our chairs and talked about galaxies.
“Heaven must be waaay out there,” Mary said.
“But there aren’t clocks in heaven, and it’s outside of time and space,” I said. “Maybe heaven isn’t beyond the very last of millions of galaxies. It could be anywhere.”
Then Mary added more questions. “What about the new heaven and the new earth? Where will those be? So is Nate in the old heaven? Or is he in the place Jesus referred to as ‘paradise’ when he was on the cross? Maybe the first heaven isn’t even being used yet.”
As we talked, we ended up with more questions than answers, concluding that we’ll only have the answers when our time comes to join Nate.
People talk about being reunited with loved ones who’ve gone ahead of them to heaven. Is Nate having coffee with his folks and others who have gone before? More than likely heaven is nothing like we’re thinking. After all, Scripture says humans can’t even imagine the wonders God has prepared for those who love him. (1 Corinthians 2:9)
Why would Nate participate in an earth-style coffee break when he could be enjoying an unimaginable wonder? For that matter, if he can walk and talk with Jesus and see the throne of God, why would he waste time gazing at an earthly sunset?
As the dogs darted in and out of the waves for mouthfuls of water, Mary and I talked about our own journeys to heaven. “I’m not ready yet,” I said, “because once we die, we have no more chances to pass any of God’s earthly tests. There’ll be no more opportunities to win out over temptation or tell someone else what God’s done for us or pray for people. It’ll just be ‘time’s up’.”
“I know,” she added. “And I feel like it’s taken most of our lives to finally catch on to all that.”
Twilight settled over the wide expanse of empty beach, and we talked about not knowing how long it would be before time would end for both of us. Nate’s death certificate says he lived 64 years, 2 months and 16 days. What will ours say? It was one more question without an answer.
Then Mary said, “I think Nate has the answers to the questions we’re still asking. The minute he got to wherever he is, he knew it all.” What a stunning realization. With that, we whistled for our dogs and headed home.
I think often of Nate and his life in paradise, wondering about the details by asking more questions. Although we spent the better part of our lives in a partnership, that relationship has now been split. “Til death do us part” was what we promised each other when we married, and death has done its evil work by parting us. We now live in separate worlds.
But one day God will banish death completely, and all those who love him will be together for all eternity. Nate and I will be in that crowd. And when that day comes, all our questions will have answers.
“Now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.” (1 Corinthians 13:12)