Not a day forgotten, not a day to be gotten without the memory of a our gentle and loving father, whose presence will not be more loved, missed, and valued from the day of his departure into heavenly places.
I run forth with every last ounce of strength from my mortal body and breath. But not without the campanionship of those whom I lead. Not without those whom Jesus Himself entrusted me with. But how I long to finally see His face. I run with Averie under my protection followed by Bethany, Samuel, and Paul. As we run their eyes slowly relinquish me and fix upon the place where the Lord is.
As we are running the light gets brighter and oh, how I cannot wait to finally see the Lord. My heart is pounding so hard I think I may not make it.
We are no less than half a mile or so from the gate and the bright light consumes everything in sight. I can no longer see Averie and she can no longer see me.
I feel light, as though a great weight has been lifted. As though a beautiful, but broken crown has been taken from me and returned with complete and perfect glory.
As the light finally dims, I expect to see the Lord. I look and I see Averie with eyes like sparkling jewels. Her beauty to me is that of the day of our wedding.
Behind her, though, standing strong, broad, and high is her father with arms wrapped around his daughter.
As I look I see tears streaming down both of their faces in glorious reunion.
Around him are many other faces whom I have longed many years to see again.
I wrap my arms around Rich and tell him how happy I am and how I finally made it. I made it with my family!
“I loved your daughter, Dad,” I say. “Just as you once asked me to.”
“Thank you, son,” he says. “Did I really ask you? For I do not remember that well the things of old. For my joy in this place is so complete that the momentary afflictions that I once struggled with on earth seem so distant and so small compared to the weight of glory that I now know.”
Bethany falls into her grandfather’s arms first, then Samuel, then Paul. Together, they express great thanks to him for the powerful impact that he had on their parents on their long journey. He hugs and kisses them.
“Since the weight of my struggles on earth is over and the harvest is complete,” I say. “I long to share my joy with Jesus and His family at the table of the Lord.”
“What was the most valuable lesson that the Lord taught you on earth? Asks Rich. “Surely it was the endurance of family!”
“Surely it was to love Him and to love my family as myself,” I say. “But seeing and savoring Him has taught me that the joy that comes from laboring for our families has proven to be worth all of our struggles on mortal earth.”
“Amen!” Shouts Rich.
He then hugs me and expresses his pride in me for loving his daughter and for leading my family and for finishing the race of the Cross.
“How I long that everyone would make it,” says Rich. “And see the great value that the Cross brings to their lives as leaders. My afflictions were many on the earth, as were my regrets. But the Lamb has been gracious to me, taking on the form of a servant, washing my sins far from me, and leading me into heavenly places all while finding my poor wretched soul worth saving to glorify Him forever. What amazing grace!”
I quickly remember how I have missed singing hymns with him as we used to do.
Together me, Rich, Averie, and our entire family, sing “Amazing Grace” together.
“Through the vastness of my pain and regrets on earth, I have been shown how great a Savior Jesus is. And I wish that all would see how worthy, glorious, honorable, and Holy that He is. For He took my sin and made me a crown of glory before Himself!”
“Take me to the Lord!” I say. “Not just so that I may have a crown, but so that I might also see Him as you have!”
Rich leads us farther up the path.
As we follow with tears streaming down our faces, preparing to behold the precious Lord who by His strength alone, had brought us here.
“Surely the Lord has used many of my failures to lead his children to Himself,” says Dad. “For behold, the least of these.”
Standing before the gate are many of our brothers and sisters of earth who stand in wait for us.
“Averie,” says Dad. “I am proud to have been your father on earth. For the Lord has used me as an instrument of both love, grace, and pain upon you. And he even used me to show you the love of your real Father. For beyond this point I am to be as your brother.”
Averie’s face lights in in beautiful joy and she falls into her father’s arms once again.
“Now my wisdom is complete,” I say. “For the value of staying in harmony as a family is what has been brought forth to show us the complete love and joy of life as the Body of Christ.”
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” I declare in outright praise to the Lord.
As I come before the gate I see the Lord Jesus.
As I look upon His face I study before me that He is more beautiful than any sight that has ever been set before my eyes. His hair flows white as whool and as smooth as silk. His eyes are as bright as blazing fire. And the love on His face for His family is as clear as crystal.
He gathers my wife and children into His arms and kisses them. Then he walks up to me and puts His hand upon my shoulder. I feel as though I am going to fall prostrate before Him but He holds me up.
“Joel,” says the Lord. “Thank you for loving my daughter as I asked.”
My eyes well up with tears as I turn to Rich to see that it had not been my father-in-law, but my Father-in-heaven who had asked this of me.
“I was the one who asked you to love and lead your family,” He continues. “And firstly, my family.”
I cry in worship of the Lamb of God who was slain so that I might love my family.
“I love you Joel,” says the Lord gently. “As I surely love Rich. For when I was in jail you visited and wrote me. When I was homeless you took me in. When I was hungry and thirsty, you gave me food and water. When I was sick, you offered me aid.”
I look at Rich, with tears of completeness and then to Averie and my children, and to all of the least of these who vastly stand before me and of all of the faces that I knew so well on earth.
“Well done my good and faithful,” says the Lord. “You are my family and you have understood me by loving your neighbor as yourself, and by loving the Lord your God as first and foremost. For behold the least of these. For behold your family, for by loving them, you have loved me. I love you my family, go and walk in love with one another as I have with you.”