Revelation 21:4 and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.
Tears of Joy
Three days ago, at age 99, Billy Graham went home to heaven. When my husband came into the room and brought me the news, tears started rolling down my cheeks. Not tears of sorrow. Oh no. Tears of joy. Oh my! Billy Graham is HOME! No more lonely nights without Ruth by his side. No more pain. No more sorrow. No more struggles or confusion or dashed longings or earthly wounds. No more mere tastes of Jesus’ nearness Oh no. Now the glory of Jesus’ presence never ceases. Billy has eaten, I’m sure, of earthly hors d’oeuvres. But exquisite as some may have been, those preludes to a feast have disappeared, and the heavenly banquet has begun. Billy is immersed in what he’s longed for and anticipated foryears.
I’m still waiting.
Tears of Longing
Right there beside my joy was my own longing.
It’s a good longing, one I share with the apostle Paul. Paul was “hard pressed” to choose between his desire to depart and be with Christ and his clear understanding that God does not bring any of us home until we have completed what He has planned for us on earth. (See Philippians 1:23-24.) Paul had more work to do. Apparently, since we’re still here, so do we. But sometimes the waiting is hard and comes with tears.
Tears of Relief
My husband and I have walked together through some hard times the last few years. Our Lord has used those times to draw us into an intimacy we’d never imagined possible. My heart can hardly bear the joy of it. Yet, side by side with our growing intimacy, is the awareness that we are, as Billy Graham put it “Nearing Home” How near? We have no idea, Could be days. Could be decades.
My personal preference for the timing of our going home to heaven is doing so simultaneously and relatively painlessly. It’s likely, though, that one of us will precede the other. If it’s my husband before me, particularly after all this growing sweetness,how will I ever bear his absence? God showed me through a Valentine’s Day card my husband had made for me a few days earlier. (He always makes his own cards.) I’d propped it up on the counter.
When he told me Billy had died that morning, I glanced once again at that homemade card. On the front he’d written “Together Forever.” As I read those words again, my heart quieted. My husband and I, as Ruth and Billy, will never be apart forever. Perhaps for a time, but never forever In God’s kingdom, absence isn’t forever. Together is.
Together forever – my beloved and I, Billy and his beloved Ruth, Jesus and anyone who longs to be near Him and asks to be His.
The first things – the earthly, temporary things – they will pass away. But earthly gifts are only shadows of heavenly gifts that never fade. If I my love goes home first, I can hold onto the solidness of the gift of “Together Forever” and the certainty that God will be near during the time I wait.
Together Forever – Ruth and Billy Graham
© Lynne Fox, 2018