Sleep came easy. His ticker, having only a few ticks left, relished laying flat, breathing labored, snoring breaths until dreams captured him. As his eyes closed, Peter wondered, would this be it? Would he wake up in heaven? And would God give him a ringside seat to see all the cavorting? Would he get to see Mildred pull away the rug? Would he hear her astonished breath from another realm?
A Voice awakened his sleep-slackened body. “Earth or heaven?” it boomed.
Peter tried to open his eyes, but couldn’t. He tried to mouth a question, but his paralyzed lips said nothing.
Light blasted him, engulfed him. “Earth or heaven?” the Voice came again, this time louder. To Peter it sounded like his Father’s when he’d gone fishing without telling—a mixture of anger and love and relief and aching.
“Your reward,” the Voice said. Peter smelled honeysuckle and roses and strawberries—a first since he lost his olfactory prowess in his thirties. “Where?” it asked.
Am I in glory?
“You have a choice. Just one. Knee-shaped divots on earth or applause in heaven. Your wife’s wonderment or My smile. Your stature or Mine.”
I’m not sure I’m following.
“I’m not sure either. Who are you following? Me? Or your reputation? Do you love the sandpaper or the Carpenter? Choose!”
Peter felt light saturate his body, enlivening his weary heart, rejuvenating his senses, renovating his joints. He could stay here, in this state, forever, and feel completely happy, perfectly well. But something needled him. The Voice, stern yet loving, beckoned him to something alien, something relational. Though he couldn’t see the Voice’s eyes, he felt sure that they wept. For him.
“There is more. So much more. Following Me has little to do with how holy you appear to others. In fact the closer you get to Me, the less you’ll care about that. I want your heart, your desires. And in return? I give you Me. My heart, My desires. And then I lavish grace, forgiveness, redemption, beauty, and peace upon you.” The Voice quieted. Peter strained to hear. “Peter, do you love Me?”
Of course I love You. Now that I know who You are, how could I help but not run to You? A single tear defied his eye and spilled into his ear. Peter opened both eyes to a darkened room, Mildred breathing beside him. He slipped out of bed. The moon shot a path of light onto the floor, spotlighting the carpet there. He kicked it aside and gasped. His sanded knee-holders were gone. Peter passed his hand over the perfectly plumb floor and shook his head. He kneeled right there, said his prayers.
And God smiled while Mildred slept.