When I stepped off the plane and walked up the concourse, I felt like I’d spent an entire day at Disneyland–the smile wouldn’t erase itself from my face. When I came to the immigration line, I continued grinning. I carried an American passport and I was coming “home.” All around me was the chatter of Americans, smiling, laughing, bantering. I had forgotten about all the joy.
The officer greeted me with a smile. He chatted with me about my destination and welcomed me to America. The customs folks searched my bags and told me to have a nice day afterward. Then, out front, my dear friend Leslie greeted me with a wonderful hug.
Heaven is going to be like that. We will be carrying our passports stamped with the cross of Jesus Christ, chatting with fellow pilgrims. We won’t be able to erase the smiles from our faces. Dear friends will greet us. We will be home.
Just like the adventure of heaven will increasingly get better and better, I experienced an unfolding of welcome and homecoming when I stepped foot in our dear church–Lakepointe Church in Rockwall, Texas. It had been six months since I raised my hands in worship there. The music, the people, the message–all greeted me like a warm embrace. I had the privilege of speaking to eight Sunday school classes, and every time I spoke about our adventures and trials in France, I wept. And those dear people held me. They prayed for me. They loved me. They spoke deep words of encouragement over me. They have become family.
But the deepest encouragement and most surprising came when I spoke at the Marchetti Adult Bible Fellowship. When I finished speaking, there was silence. Then applause. Then everyone rose to their feet. I wept. There have been times that this journey in France has been excruciating. God was showing me through the standing of that class that He sees us. He loves us. He longs to encourage us. He used a simple, but beautiful act of honor through the kindness of His people to embrace me afresh.
The whole scenario reminded me of the great cloud of witnesses that the Bible speaks of in the book of Hebrews. Won’t it be amazing when we stand before the Beauty of Jesus amidst the praises and worship of our friends? Won’t it be staggering to (hopefully) hear the melodic voice of our Savior say “Well done, good and faithful servant”?
Seeing the standing ovation reminded me that God sees. He knows. He watches from heaven. He chronicles our tears. He will set things right. Someday in the hallowed light of that New Land, I will be standing, shouting and clapping, joining in the ovation of heaven for the sake of the God who sees.