Sounds like the first show of a dramatic television series. But this is not fiction. In a previous post How are You Traveling Heavenward? I introduced Mary Winslow, a woman who arrived in America with her ten children, dreaming of building a new life with her husband who would join them from Scotland. Instead, shortly after her baby daughter died, Mary learned that her husband had also died.
|Mary Forbes Winslow, 1774 - 1854|
A horrific, deep, dark depression and despondency overwhelmed Mary for many months. In time, the Lord delivered her and turned her darkness into light. Rather than resenting that dark place, she later said, "I think I have learned more of my dreadfully wicked heart, and the preciousness of Jesus during this trial that I ever learnt before."
Mary saw Jesus transform the darkness with His light, a light the darkness could not overcome. And through her sorrow, she experienced treasures in the darkness that enabled her to offer encouragement to others in dark places.
After the death of our son, I stumbled on Heaven Opened, The Correspondence of Mary Winslow, compiled by her son, Octavius. Throughout her letters, Mary practiced biblical encouragement, constantly challenging recipients of her letters to fall more in love with Jesus and to implicitly trust Him. Her life experiences make her a credible witness to God's faithfulness and that He keeps His promises. To a newly bereaved widow she asked, "How are you traveling heavenward?" Mary followed up her question with a beautiful litany of why this broken woman could face each day with courage and strength as each step took her closer to Heaven.
I was especially vulnerable to that question because of my bottomless grief. Longing for Heaven was a constant hunger and days after Mark's fatal accident, Chuck described this longing, "Mark's death unbolted me from my love affair with this world." When a bereaved mother heard those words, she said, "I could hear the chains falling."
I didn't fully understand the theological basis for that question until I studied Hebrews 11, where I read that Abraham and others who walked by faith before me saw themselves as aliens on this earth, that they knew they were traveling to a better place:
By faith, Abraham, . . . made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country. . . For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
Hebrews 11:8 - 10
All these people were still living by faith when they died. . . They admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. . . they were longing for a better country - a heavenly one. . . Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
Hebrews 11:13 - 16
They knew they didn't belong here. They were on their way Home, traveling Heavenward. One way Abraham reflected this worldview was by living in tents (Hebrews 11:9).
The view of these "elder statesmen" of our faith released me to freely see myself as "just passing through" earth. With heaven as my destination came a recognition that my life is fleeting and that my real investment needs to be with heaven in mind.
Since Heaven is my destination, I want others to travel this pathway with me. Such thinking changes the way I view family relationships, my work, conflicts (needing to be right vs. reflecting the humility of Jesus), possessions (how can I invest material blessings with eternity's values in view). I wish I could say I've figured it all out and my responses are perfectly like Jesus, but just remembering to ask myself, "How am I traveling heavenward?" helps turn my heart toward Jesus which helps me rethink my responses to life. When expectations are shattered, relationships broken, my body ages, and my energy diminishes, and I can't do everything I use to do - all of these things remind me that I don't belong here. After I complain about every new (and old) ache and pain, I realize my body is reminding me, I don't belong here. I'm on my way Home.
And such thinking encourages me to open my hands and surrender to God's purposes, trusting that He is always at work, doing something behind the scenes, with eternity in view. How can I partner with those purposes rather than stay down when I fall down on this pathway? And my response to this question is often tears, anger, frustration, and crying out, "But this isn't fair! And this is more than I can handle!" No Facebook faking here. This journey toward Heaven is often excruciating.
But, I am learning that the actual journey, especially the potholes and rabbit trails, is transforming me. Each mess up is an opportunity to experience discipline that is soaked in mercy.
And so I ask myself, "How am I traveling heavenward?" in this last season of life?
Hebrews 12:1-2 challenges me further:
How grateful I am that Mary Winslow is one of those cheerleaders, calling to me from Heaven, encouraging me to fix my eyes on Jesus, to keep on keeping on, to never quit walking by faith and when I lay my head down each night, to breathe a sigh of relief - I'm one day closer.
And so, I ask you, friends, How are you traveling Heavenward?
In His grip,