Hello there. I'm Horace B Walter Johnston the third. Yes there were two unfortunate souls before me who bore that mouthful their whole life as well. Oh but I forgot! That is not my name anymore. No, you see the Holy Prince writes his name for you on your forehead your first day here. Excuse me- I am Shekinah Shining now. Rolls of the ol' tongue a might purtier eh?
I've been instructed to show you around one of my favorite spots up here in God's glory known as the story room. It is a perennial favorite especially among the newcomers you see there is often a bit or two of old life hanging on and nagging at them in some way or the other. Almost as if they just knew "why" to this or that then they could move on to worship more fully. It's not quite sadness for thankfully that is gone here but it isn't the fullest joy they could experience until they move on. Our Lord knows us better than we know ourselves which is why he put the story room in.
It is sort of like a theatre but one dreamed up by Harry Potter. You actually are in the story, like its a dream and though you are just observing it is a total observing that can only be appreciated fully in a resurrected body.
I am here to usher in this batch of newcomers because I have a starring role in today's show. But first I must share some of the Earth story for the story room picks up with what the person didn't get to see or experience. It basically tells the rest of the story that was started on Earth.
My grandson was a 'lil spitfire for our Lord much of his life was devoted to serving the King except for a few years he had a medium hiccup. A crisis of faith if you will. If I could experience sadness up here I supposed I might feel a twinge of it since I was the cause of this hiccup. Of course I also know the rest of the story and that perspective makes me want to run wild in God's green feels shouting like a toddler.
Anyway, my grandson KB, which is short for Keith Bradley, set to evangelizing me every chance he got. Especially the closer I got to death's door. At that time I wasn't quite an atheist but I was more than an agnostic. You see I cared very deeply about my opinions on who God was. I was convinced he was a miserly jerk and I wanted nothing to do with him. I did believe he existed though. I just couldn't understand all of the pain he allowed his supposed children to suffer. My own Earth children included. The tragic, horrific deaths they suffered were senseless.
I was healed by God's love for me but a great aid to that healing were the decades (in Earth time) I spent in the story room. Our Father is a story teller and loves us well by the tales he weaves.
KB was about to leave for a mission trip and the two of us had been squabbling about this for months leading up to the time he was supposed to leave. KB was all I had left at this point in the way of family and though he was now in his early twenties and about to start his adult life it seemed to me like he was still playing at life. Like the trips he had taken down to Mexico with his church youth group had been a kid thing and just fine for a young man to do on his vacation if that is how he wanted to blow his time and money but now that he was a man it seemed silly.
At the time my health had taken a sharp turn for the worse as I had a bad stroke just a week before he was to leave. Timing seems to be one of God's primary tools and one we rarely understand. KB now had to face a critical, confusing decision. Did he follow after Christ in the spirit of cleaving from his former family (me) or did he sacrifice an opportunity to serve in the way he wanted to serve in a different way, by being with an old man at this end? KB felt like he had God's grace to go on the trip. And he did. He just didn't understand why. KB assumed it was because there was time. He would be able to go on the trip and still come back and love me well unto the end. To his credit the trip was only four months long and the doctors had assured him I still had years, but they had followed that up with that they would be hard years and he needed to consider leaving me in a semi-hospital like home instead of taking me home with him.
For my part it was more about him throwing his life away on this church nonsense than it was about feeling abandoned by him. Not that I didn't try to guilt him into staying (I did). For his part he wanted to give one more go at giving me the "did I know where I would be when I died?" speech just in case I didn't have the years the doctors had promised. His speech was a bit rushed this time as he literally needed to be hopping on a plane to leave so he barked out at me "do you really want to spend an eternity separated from God" To which I had shot back: "you mean 'burning in hell' don't you?" And that was how we ended. He stormed out. I glared after him.
So often those left on Earth think their harsh words are ringing out in their loved one's ears for all Eternity. I promise you they are not. We are whooping and hollering and praising Jesus most of the time. If we do remember it is faintly and almost with a sense of amusement. Like, whew! He laid a doozy on me didn't he! Then we go back to our chess game with Abe Lincoln. The words do often ring out on the one's ears who is left on Earth. Over and over they repeat the last conversation and kick themselves for their harshness. This was the case with KB. When he heard I had passed away he was in the airport to come back. Something inside him just collapsed.
Expectations may very well be another golden tool the Holy One uses and again, we scarcely understand how or why. It was as if KB had been expecting God to uphold some kind of deal that he was convinced had been made. He would go serve Jesus and in return God would make sure his grandfather stayed alive long enough for KB to march him on into heaven. Even if KB had to go down to hell to snatch away a devil's pitchfork to prod me, he was convinced he would and could do it. But then time ran out on him.
Sadly KB hardened to God a bit and it made the next few years like a sluggish trudge rather than his usual gallop after Christ. He had on occasion dared to hope that I had a death-bed conversion. He had even desperately asked the priest at the hospital if he was quite sure I had not in fact received Christ before death. The priest put a hand on his shoulder and with kind eyes told him "son, in absence of full knowledge why not hope for the best and believe he is in heaven?" This was sage wisdom of course but KB mostly sluffed it off.
Every now and then he did hope. For despite our main difference of faith we had gotten along well and been there for each other since we were the only family we had left. And that therein was one of His Holinesses primary reasons for calling me home when he did. His timing was to set out KB for himself and had KB spent the next several years caring for me he would not have met the woman God had prepared for him, nor started the ministry that God had set aside for him. A ministry that reached millions. KB often wondered if that ministry could have just started a few years later though. This thought would creep in, quiet and bitter, and he had trouble praying through his doubts about God's timing. He was wrong. The ministry would not have been the same, or perhaps at all, if KB's will--instead of God's--had been sought.
KB had prayed a quiet little prayer the day before I died. It was as if his soul knew I was going even though he didn't. He had started to panic just a bit about me because despite numerous postcards to my room he had heard not a word back from me. He was more worried that our relationship was dead than I was. That is when it occurred to him to give it over to God. That he couldn't control what happened to me, or when and if I ever came to the Lord, and that he needed to surrender to God's will and let it be done in my life as in his. He didn't know it at the time but that simple prayer was what enabled God to plant the seed of ministry in him, but also required the death of me.
The crowd ushered in and I searched fervently for KB. I knew I would scarce recognize him. People's resurrected bodies are so drastically different even spouses of sixty years don't recognize each other. But I had help. I glanced down at the gold writing inscribed on my hand. The same type of gold writing Jesus uses to write the names. For he had called me up to him to write down KB's new name on my hand so I could watch my former grandson be healed of me and my untimely death-I chuckle at that for after all 74 is hardly untimely but for him it was- and move on to worship the one.
The show had just started, little bits and flashes of stories. Different ones rejoiced as their story was completed. Then I saw him. Second to the back in the middle. Courage. I smiled. When I had seen that name written on my hand I nodded up at Jesus. It was fitting indeed. Courage sat, his shoulder erect, and his intense blue eyes fixed on the screen. I saw him visibly jerk and I knew his bit was on. I glanced up at a strangely familiar scene. I say strange because this view of it was odd as before I had seen it with my own eyes. It was me, an old man dying, laying on the hospital bed. No angels or heavenly lights just an old man groaning. The groans were translated for the audience for I was in fact talking to God at the moment. I was listing off my grievances against him. And then, clear as when it had happened, was the young face of KB at about age four. It was from a memory that had overpowered me. KB had just come home from Sunday School and had drawn a picture of himself in my lap. It was a very crude picture and when he had interpreted the squiggles and lines for me as himself in my lap I had to hide a smirk and nod pleasantly. Then KB looked up at me with such love I could hardly stand it. He nestled his head in my chest. God then spoke to me, in a sure, steady voice: you are the child dear one, nestled in my chest. I simply said "yes." And I breathed my last.
What KB had needed to see was that it was him ushering me home to God after all. It was just God had used the tools when and how he chose to use them. Like children trying to help our parents make cookies we so often throw in the eggs with the flour instead of beating them up and putting them in at their proper time. The story room shows us how it all fit together, even when we were absolutely convinced everything was all mucked up beyond repair.
As the newcomers ushered out I called out: "Courage!" And he paused, confused at first as he was still adjusting to the name. I then said quietly, "KB, it is me." Courage's eyes met mine and the little boy smile I had dined on in glory up here flashed again, quickening my heart. "Grandpa!" He paused and he took in my appearance and my new name. I hooked my arm through his. "Come one boy, there's someone we've got to beat at chess and it'll take the two of us."