When my brother, Jason, found himself, suddenly, in the presence of his Maker Wednesday morning, I have to believe he was filled with the most immense relief and joy as he soaked in his first extended hug from Jesus.
Feeling the warmth of his Savior and freedom from the tormentor that plagued his time on earth had to have been incredible.
His was a life lived amidst wrong turns and feeling his way through rough, dark roads seeking those who would faithfully walk with him through the journey but often failing to connect with the ones who could provide it.
Still, he made profound impacts on those around him for his caring, generous spirit, loyalty in work and friendship, the way he showed respect for even strangers and his ability to make everyone feel welcomed and comfortable in his presence.
I can imagine he was then welcomed with a shower of kisses and embraces from family and friends who have gone before him. The love would be almost overwhelming, at first, but it would eventually temper and they would just remain in silence and awe at the fact they were standing together in the light and presence of Jesus himself.
But, of course, Jason would realize he could finally get some answers to some long-awaited questions from the Creator of the Universe whose eyes, fixed on this newly welcomed child of God, were eagerly inviting him to ask.
So, he steps forward, clears his throat and starts with his prelude.
Jason: I know you had a plan and purpose for everything in my life, but there are still some things that happened I am just unsure as to how it played into your great plan.
Jesus: Shoot. I have nothing but answers for you.
Jason: Remember when I was just a few years old and I was playing with those discarded pieces of wood?
Jesus: Sure. And you placed your fingers in the path of your Dad sawing that one piece and took a few of your fingertips out in the process.
Jason: Right. Well, the fingers were saved but the nails on those fingers always grew out all funky. What was the reason for that?
Jesus: Yes, well…you know how, as a kid, you had a tendency to get easily angered and also sought acceptance from people who were not the best influences on you?
Jesus: You thought twice about displaying any obscene hand gestures in your anger, right?
Jason: Well, yes. But I don’t get how it kept me away from bad influences.
Jesus: I don’t remember seeing you throw up too many gang signs either.
Jason: Got it. Well, what about the time I got frustrated with my high school basketball coach in the middle of practice and walked out and quit the team.
Jesus: Hey, that’s free will. I can’t keep you from quitting.
Jason: No, I get that, but did it have to be at the exact moment my little brother’s junior high team walked into the gym to see how a “real team” prepared for games?
Jesus: Believe me, he learned real quickly from your example of what NOT to do.
Jason: Alright, I guess I can see how that was a good thing…for him. Oh, what about me having to drive that ugly, old station wagon to school everyday?
Jesus: What are you talking about? That car was solid, dependable and always got you where you needed to go.
Jason: Yeah, but it was embarrassing. I used to park it behind a brick wall at the office building next to our school so nobody would see me driving it.
Jesus: Ever heard the verse, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble”? I was doing you a favor. Who doesn’t want more grace?
Jason: Ok…well…thanks…I guess. Wish you could have gone about that a little differently, but I’ll take it.
Jesus: No, believe me. This was the most effective way. What else do you have?
Jason: What about my relationship with my parents. We seemed to have a disproportionate amount of struggle compared to the good times…especially as I was growing up. Why couldn’t things have just been easier?
Jesus: Great question. That was more of an answer to prayer than anything else.
Jason: What are you talking about? I didn’t pray for that.
Jesus: No, not you. Your parents were praying for greater patience before they had you…so…voila! For some reason, they decided to pray for the same thing not long before your sister was born.
Jason: Why couldn’t I find someone at the end to spend my life with? Someone I could love and who would love me in return?
Jesus: Do you not remember how much time we spent together these last few years? How much you felt my presence even in the midst of those times of loneliness? The peace and love I poured out on you every morning, day and night as you continued to let go of what you wanted and sought my will for your life? Who could love you better than me?
Jason: You’re right. But you also created me with a longing to share my life with another person as well.
Jesus: Jason, can you look down there right now and see the pain and hurt that is filling hearts in your absence? Some of these are people you have only known for a few months. I was counting down the seconds until you were coming to be here with me. How could I place yet one more person in your life to experience that type of grief?
Jason: I understand. But why now? Just turning 40, my beautiful son about to be a teenager, with relationships finally starting to deepen with my family and new hope with my career. Why would you take me from all that?
Jesus: Because I love you so much. You had 40 years of struggle with so many things. And don’t you know the legacy of faith you built into your son. He is going to be strengthened through my love more now than ever before. And look at your family, your friends, can’t you see how, within minutes of your passing, gaps have been bridged and breaks have been healed. Products of what had been years of hurt caused by that world of sin you have now been delivered from are no longer because you are now with me. And why would I have ever wanted to see your true source of joy and happiness be in anything but our relationship. I have been jealous for you since before you were conceived.
With that answer, my brother would lower his head, lean it into the chest of Jesus and whisper his thanks as he absorbs yet another of many embraces and before feeling the collective group hug of his heavenly family, both old and new, he rests in perfect peace.