As I Rise

My Thoughts As I Rise

“Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever.” (1 Thess. 4:17)

The day Jesus promised is finally here. My feet have left the ground without the aid of a stumble, elevator, magician, ladder, or flying machine. Once I got past the initial shock and a mild bout of motion sickness, it only took a moment to identify what was happening.

This is the Rapture.

A sudden departure is not what I expected today. I had multiple important items on my agenda: the car’s oil change is long overdue. Jimmy has a school project requiring my help. I was about to walk into the 10:00 board meeting after having put the final touches on my presentation—a proposal I hoped would vault me to the next level in the company.

Jesus had plans for this day too. His took precedence over mine.

Comparable to the delivery of a baby, my ascent began slowly but steadily increased in speed and intensity. I doubt my departure seemed delayed from my coworkers’ perspective. To them, my vanishing happened in the “twinkling of an eye.” To me, however, I was moving at a natural pace while they were the ones who dramatically slowed.

It reminded me of those movies where the superhero is going so fast it makes everyone else appear to be in slow-motion. The building housing my cubicle is tall, and I was on the third floor – was. Now, I was easily passing through floor after floor of materials that should have halted my ascent. It was a strange sensation. Layers of metal, concrete, piping, and insulation flashed by; none even slowed my pace. It was quite a trip.

I do not know how you would feel if you were in my position, but my emotions are wildly alternating from one pole to the other. My response may seem unnatural, so permit me to explain my thoughts. Then you will understand, and perhaps empathize.

Embarrassment

My job regularly requires me to fly. I usually buckle into a tight-fitting chair, sit snugly between two strangers, and focus on the book in my lap or the screen before me. I’m thankful to be safe inside a long metal tube of thin but sturdy aluminum. Not this time. This time, nothing but air surrounds me.

I find myself a little embarrassed. Though I distinctly remember putting on my most impressive suit this morning, it seems I am now without clothing. Do you know that nightmare where you are standing naked in public? Yep, top fear—absolute reality.

My chagrin about my overexposed skin is nothing compared to the shame I feel over a recent epiphany. Countless times, I watched from my airplane window as the world I treasured shrunk beneath me. The subdivisions, interstates, businesses, and farms appeared unreal from my height. They were merely Matchbox cars, Lego houses, and pretend communities like those sI once created in my childhood. Inevitably though, my plane would descend, I would disembark into this playground, and once again, I would adopt its thinking as my own.

Knowing what awaits me today, I finally view what exists below me as the make-believe world it always was. The land is real, and so are the people, but the values system here is founded on lies. Why didn’t I see it until now? I am embarrassed.

Relief

There were days I doubted I would make this trip. Every time I heard an evangelistic sermon anxiety crept into my soul. Was I a Christian? Had the Father adopted me into His family? I needed to make sure.

With each convicting message, I re-evaluated my beliefs and my heart. I repented of any faults I discovered. Now I was sure, well—95% anyway. Is it possible to be 100% confident about something that requires faith?

I must admit, I have not always been faithful. I repeatedly walked away. The pastor didn’t know; neither my church attendance nor my offerings ever dwindled. My wife suspected though she never asked. She noticed changes in my patience, attitude, pursuits, and allowances. Bloodshot eyes fueled by contentious words were a common ailment in our marriage. I am relieved that those days are over and that Jesus has not left me to fend for myself.

Problems at home and the poor precedent I set could have permanently damaged my family’s faith. I had to know if they were safe. By looking in the direction of our house, I located my wife in the sky – no surprise – she’s the godliest person I know.

Next, I made eye contact with both of my children. Thankfully, my wife’s example steadied our children’s faith more effectively than my actions could ever shake it. It was a relief to see my family rising with me. God, in His mercy, has shielded me from the potential consequences of my failures.

Apprehension

I am a planner. Some would say control freak. Travel inflates my blood pressure. Business trip, family vacation or weekend getaway—it doesn’t matter. High expectations, an inability to plan due to an impromptu departure, a lack of detailed information, or an introduction to a person of extreme significance can combine to produce high stress. So much could go awry. I remember the first time I, a sophomore in college, had to travel out of state to meet my future in-laws. They were terrific, but I was a mess. When I was introduced to my wife’s mother, I greeted her by offering to shake her hand. She pulled me in for a hug. I lost my balance and put all my weight on her foot. At the wedding, she pretended to limp down the aisle. It was a gentle, humorous jab, a reminder of our first meeting.

My current trip encompasses all the factors that tense me. I know my destination, but I don’t know much about it. Though I’ve been ready to go for years, I wasn’t prepared to go today. I sat in traffic this morning, not in church. My Bible remains closed on the end table, but I found time to read that email and notice that it was copied to my supervisor. I’m not spiritually prepared to meet Jesus today. Did you catch that?

I will meet Jesus today. I know about Him, but sometimes, I feel like I don’t know Him. Jesus is my Savior and my King. I enthusiastically include my voice in every song the church sings to Jesus. For years, my children heard me pray to Jesus before they went to sleep. Most mornings, I begin my day by spending a little time with Him. That is talking into the air; this is seeing Jesus face-to-face.

I am apprehensive. I fear I will see disappointment in Jesus’ eyes.

Excitement

You can’t imagine how many times I have looked out the airplane window, seen those puffy clouds, and wished I could exit the plane to go for a stroll. My fantasy is now a reality. Peter got to walk on liquid H2O; I’m traversing the gaseous form, and there’s no chance of falling! My troubles are over! No more taxes, medicine bottles, school projects, house repair, unrealistic work expectations, or arguments over meaningless issues. I will not miss them. I won’t miss funerals either.

I’m only in my mid-40’s, but I’ve already buried too many. My parents were both gone by the time I achieved my Master’s degree. Cancer took them. I thought I handled their deaths pretty well. Nothing prepared me for the loss of my oldest daughter. She was 17. It was a beautiful day. The other driver was drunk. I have said goodbye too often.

Goodbye is no longer in my vocabulary. This is reunion day! Mom and dad are with Jesus. My dad was the one who birthed my faith. One week before my daughter’s death, she knelt on a Florida beach and gave her heart to the Lord. She was at a youth camp with our church. Today, I will hold her again, and nothing will separate us. The best part about today is that I will finally see Jesus.

Yes, that thought makes me nervous, but I also anticipate it. It’s like a first date. Part of you is so scared; you want to run and hide. The other part can’t wait to get there and enjoy the thrill a new relationship brings. As I rise, my fear subsides, and excitement takes control.

Sorrow

The sky is not nearly as full of people as I had hoped it would be. Billions of feet remain on solid ground. The Rapture verifies the accuracy of Bible Prophecy. That’s good for me, but for the people left on earth, it means serious trouble is coming. I hurt for them.

Bill, my neighbor, would freely discuss work, sports, family or politics. However, he rebuffed every attempt I made to speak with him about spiritual matters. I prayed for him, I sought counsel from my life group, and I studied so I would be ready for any questions he might pose. Bill wasn’t really a friend; we didn’t have much in common. His approaching suffering is no less painful for me.

I know what the Apostle John experienced when he ate the little scroll containing the record of God’s judgment on mankind. Justice is sweet, so John’s first taste was a pleasant one. However, when he digested what God’s highest creation would face, it soured his stomach.

God does not enjoy the death of the wicked. Those who possess God’s nature respond with the same aversion to human suffering.

Joy

Something is happening to me. I’m changing. It hurts. That should not surprise me. Stretching, lifting weights, growing—these produce a positive outcome, but they are painful.

The process is complete. I have a new body. Physical pain and emotional roller coasters will threaten me no more. I am whole. Earth has faded from view. The cloud layer is thickening. So is the crowd of people originating from every point on earth but converging at this one spot.

I thought city streets were loud, but neither New York City, Las Vegas, nor Chicago matches the volume of this crowd. I am not a fan of noisy environments. I’m usually the first to ask the restaurant manager to turn down the music. I do not mind this roar because it is meaningful. Laughter, singing, talking, shouting and joyful tears fill my ears as families find each other.

Wait. I hear an announcement echo throughout the group.

“There He is. It’s Jesus!”

 

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