Sometimes God shows up at the most unexpected times, and in the most unexpected ways.
Yesterday as Paula and I were driving back from Lusaka, and just as we were approaching a police stop, I had a waking vision of our son Josiah. He was in heaven and it was as if we were arriving there. I didn’t see Jesus, but I knew he was there, because his presence was unmistakeable. Josiah was tall with sandy brown, blondish hair and blue eyes. He wasn’t a baby. He was grown, yet he had a sort of baby like quality to him. It was as if the infant and the man were one, and we could look upon both of them at the same time.
In the vision, Josiah stretched out his arms toward us and said, “Mommy, Daddy. Welcome home.” I immediately began to sob.
What struck me about it all, was the joy in Josiah’s eyes and in his smile. It was pure joy and I instantly realized that I had never seen pure joy before. I had seen only partial joy, only joy laden with the certainty of being temporal, always marred by its finitude. I didn’t realize this until then, but all the joy I had ever known seemed to be riding a wave that was certain to break. But this joy wasn’t riding a wave. Rather, it was the ocean that carried the wave, that contained the wave and that would forever absorb and resurrect the wave.
Josiah’s joy had a permanence to it and it became the source of our joy. It was as if his joy radiated and produced ours, which in turn increased and amplified his own joy. And I think that’s what made the joy so, so joyous, was its sharedness, its reciprocity. It was joy produced and realized in communion with God and with one another and because we had an endless future, so did our joy. It was a joy that we immediately recognized as being far beyond what we could have ever imagined joy to be. I realized that all that we had considered joy to be before, had only been a facsimile, a latent image, a faint shadow.
The other thing I noticed in this vision, was that our joy wasn’t a feeling or an emotion. It was something more tangible than that. It was part of us and it came from our love for Josiah, as his joy came from his love for us. In the vision, Josiah’s face radiated with pure happiness and love – love uncorrupted by pain or by sin and I knew that we were experiencing just the very beginning of things. I knew somehow that all that we thought we had lost, was there waiting for us only in greater measure than we could have possibly conceived of. In Josiah’s welcome, we were stepping from the insignificant into the magnificent and all of this world so paled in comparison to what lie ahead.
It is a strange thing to share with others that you’ve had a vision from God and I hope that you don’t take this to mean that it happens to me often. It is biblical though. Joel 2:28 says, “ Your old men will dream dreams, Your young men will see visions.” And having just celebrated my 39th birthday, I am delighted that if nothing else this officially qualifies me as a young man.
But as I contemplated sharing this (and I was leaning toward not) I decided that I would on the basis, not that it should make me seem more spiritual, but that it should help us all to see God as more faithful than perhaps we sometimes imagine.
It is difficult to sum up what this vision did for me, because it did so many things that are difficult wrap up in nice and neat little phrases. But I suppose, in essence, it stirred up hope in me in a way only God could do. It was able to reach inside me and find a remnant of hope, and stretch it and enlarge it and cause it to begin to grow once again.
In giving this vision, God gave me what I so desperately needed to continue on the path he has placed us. He gave me the hope of knowing my son in a real way someday, both as a baby, and as a man. As one of our friends has said, “Josiah is not only a part of your past, he is also a part of your future.” God gave me a vivid reminder that, “our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Rom 8:18).
But really, it is much more than that, though I’m not sure the much more can be conveyed. Maybe its not meant to be. Perhaps that part is mine and Paula’s alone.
This morning during a time of worship and prayer, after months of wondering and asking, “God, where are you in all of this,” Paula and I had an incredible encounter with the Lord, right in our living room. As we sang and worshiped, God began to give me a prophetic word to speak over Paula’s life. In that word, God spoke directly to many of her specific struggles, and in doing so, I think a similar hope was stirred in her.
In a span of two days, we have found ourselves comforted by God in ways we could have never imagined. That is not to say our sorrows are all swept away, and that all is well. But rather that they have come once again to be mingled with hope. And I am convinced that this in part, due to the sovereignty and grace of God, but also in part due to the prayers that have been offered on our behalf.
The many of you who have prayed for us have had a vital part in all of this. Your prayers have been essential threads in this magnificent tapestry. And just as you have shared in our sorrows, I also am convinced you will share in our joys – and that your joy in turn will produce greater joy in us, and...well, you know the rest.
So I don’t know why God allows bad things to happen. I don’t know why our friends Andrew and Christie are having to watch their newborn twins struggle for survival. But I know God is not far from them, that he is not far from any of us, and perhaps especially near to those who suffer. And I also know that all that we do as the church when we pray, makes a tremendous difference.
And finally, I know that in the end, all of this, will pale in comparison to what awaits us.
(Please join us in praying for Andrew and Christie Lundgren and their twin boys, Luke and Caleb. Luke is especially critical and in need of a miracle to reduce swelling in his head, and that his seizures would cease).