“Tom. Tom. Get up. Tom.”
I felt a gentle shaking at my shoulder.
“Tom! Come on! It’s time to get up!” Cautiously, I opened my eyes. I was flat on my back, and a familiar figure slowly came into focus.
“Chris? Chris Lierheimer? What?…..” I felt around me. I seemed to be lying on grass.
“Come on , buddy, it’s time to get up. We have things to do.” I took a deep breath. Water. I could smell water nearby. I heard the sound of a gently flowing brook. I sat up and looked at Chris.
“Chris! I barely recognize you!” I stared in amazement. My friend was barrel chested, vigorous, with a full head of curly brown hair. I looked more closely, and could barely see a finely wrought circlet worked into his hair. Tiny jewels seemed to glisten from it.
“Ha! You should see yourself. Come here.” He pulled me up and over to the brook. The sun was so bright I had to squint against it.
“Look at your reflection.” I leaned over the water. Someone unrecognizable goggled back at me. I put my hands to my chest. I felt my abdomen. The figure in the water did the same.
“Chris. What is going on here? Look at my hair! Look at my face! And my gut! I don’t have any holes in my gut!” I pulled up my shirt. I was dressed in linen, so white it sparkled in the sunlight. I looked down at my stomach and chest. I had lived with the openings there for so long, I had forgotten what my stomach looked like before I got sick.
Actually, it looked better than I’d ever seen it. The last time I had six-pack abs was running track in college!
“Chris! This is incredible! Does my hair look like yours?”
“What, are we a couple of ladies now, fixing our hair? Of course it does! There’s no chemotherapy here! Now come on, there’s people I want you to meet.” He bounded over the grass ahead of me and was nearly out of sight before I realized it.
I stood up. “Wait! Wait! I’m , um, hungry.” Inwardly I cringed at the thought. Food had been such a trial. I have been so hungry, so terribly hungry, but my cancer had prevented the food from going very far. In fact, every time I ate something, most of it ended up on my shirt. I had to reach for the word, that’s funny, but I think it was called a ‘stoma’.
I took a few tentative steps, then a few more. Unbelievable! I felt great! I started to run after him. I bounded over the grassy field, my legs eating up distance on the banks of the river. I ran faster, faster, and finally began to see him in the distance. We both were dressed in dazzling white, and he was running toward a what looked like an enormous gate to a city. Outside the gate was a green, glassy pavilion.
An enormous table was set, and people were gathering all around it. I ran faster.
“Look at him go! Welcome Tom! He’s here, everyone! Meet my friend, Tom Seedroff!” Chris raised his hands in salute. “Tom, if I introduce everyone, I’ll have a mutiny. Everyone, take a seat, and let’s thank the Maker of the feast!” He raised his hands toward the city.
“Oh Lamb of God, and Light to the Holy City, we thank you for providing this marvelous feast, and friends around the table! Amen!” A chorus of “Amens!” swirled around the table.
“Dig in, everyone! Tom! Sit beside me. Let me introduce you to a friend of mine.” A tall, smiling figure with salt and pepper hair stretched out a hand.
“Ron Powell, Tom! Glad to meetcha!”
“Ron’s a sort of father figure around here, Tom. He’ll take you hunting later.”
I sat at the table and reveled in what I saw. Glistening plates heaped with all kinds of fruit. Mounds of sweet potatoes, whipped to peaks. Heaps of what looked like steaming turkey meat. Platters full of asparagus, coated with melted butter. Baskets of bread, followed with smaller platters of butter.
And the drinks! Pitchers full of thick, chilled juices. One golden brown, seeming to give off it’s own light.
“That’s meade, Tom. It’s a fermented drink made out of honey. We have some the best beekeepers around. Drink up!”
I put a small spoonful of everything I could reach on my plate. Fearfully, I took a bite of pineapple. The taste exploded in my mouth! Amazing! I hadn’t tasted anything like that in months! ”
Laughter reached my ears. Chris was laughing at me, and some of his friends were chuckling.
“Tom, the Bible was pretty clear on this one. Don’t you remember? The part where it says that the ‘perishable body’ will be clothed with the ‘imperishable’ one? You are imperishable now! But hey! All this food isn’t. You gonna eat all that turkey?” I passed him the plate in a daze.
Slowly, not trusting this body just yet, I ate a little of everything on my plate, and felt my hunger start to wane, for the first time in months. I almost dropped to my knees in thankfulness, right there.
I became aware of a light pressure on my head. What? I touched my forehead, and put both hands up to investigate. I pulled a circlet of metal off my head. It was beautiful! Finely wrought gold surrounded darkly flashing pieces of ebony and onyx. Could those be rubies? Katie and I spent all our money on children, not things this majestic. Was it mine? I scrutinized the faces of my other table mates. Yes, they all had the same sort of thing, set lightly on their heads.
Katie! Oh no! Where was Katie? A flood of memories nearly knocked me over! Katie! Gavin! Nora! Lilah! Evan! Where was everyone? How could I leave them?
“Chris! Chris!” I ran over to my friend. “My family! Where is my family?”
He put his kindly hand over mine. ” Shhhh. Listen for a minute. We’ve all had the same experience, at this table. Shhh.” I listened.
Slowly, I could hear it. The sound nearly broke my heart. Weeping, sobbing, the sound of soft crying. Over and over. Tears began to run down my face.
“Tom. Tom. You need to hear what the Lamb is saying to you, and to them. Remember?”
5 Those who sow with tears
will reap with songs of joy.
6 Those who go out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with them.
14 “I will deliver this people from the power of the grave;
I will redeem them from death.
Where, O death, are your plagues? Where, O grave, is your destruction?
They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’[b] or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4
For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”[h]
55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”[i
Slowly my tears subsided. I understood. “But who will take care of them, Chris? You understand, your family is almost as big as mine! ”
“Tom, have a little faith. Remember what James said is ‘true religion?’
27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
“There’s a lot of flim-flammery in American Christians to be sure. Victoria is learning a lot about who is serious about their faith. But she’s putting it together.”
“Katie has a huge cloud of witnesses around her, people who want this ‘true religion’. People will look after both of them, and all 9 of our kids, until they get here, and then non of that matters anymore, it’s all about Jesus.”
Slowly this began to sink in. Slowly, ever so slowly, my fear for my family dissolved. In it’s place stood a sense of urgency.
“Chris! We have so much to do! They’ll be here any minute! What’s next?”
“That’s my boy! ” He clapped me on the back. Hard. It didn’t hurt a bit!
“I don’t have the slightest idea. But let’s go visit the Lamb, he’ll give us our marching orders. Race you to the gate!” Off we went!
12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. James 1:12
1 The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul.