Everything went black. Jim found himself on a dusty little path in the middle of nowhere. Off in the distance was a beautiful city that glimmered in the heat of the day. Ahead of him on the road were hundreds of people, maybe thousands, all walking towards the coruscating beacon of hope.
A man stood to the side of the narrow path, beckoning to Jim with a smile on his face. “Welcome!” said the man. In his eyes was the deepest acceptance Jim had ever known. He felt the embrace of this man’s gaze in his very soul. It was a gaze that peered right into the depths of his heart and somehow knew everything that Jim had ever hidden away there.
Jim knew there was no hiding from this man, and yet there was nothing to fear. He was looking into the face of Love incarnate. Jim felt the burden of all of his shame and guilt lifting in the presence of such goodness and grace. He began to hope against hope that maybe, just maybe, he could learn to love himself like this man in front of him did.
“Come walk with me.” said the man, turning towards the city. Jim moved towards this heavenly being and fell into step beside him. “Who are you?” Jim asked, not even certain that he could comprehend the answer. “I am known by many names, by many different people and cultures. I am the bread of life, the living water. I am the source, the guide, the inner knowing. I am the fullness of your true self. I am Love. I made you and I know you and I have come to take you home.”
A deep peace washed over Jim’s soul. He could feel love cradling him and whispering gentle healing over his entire being as they walked. The presence of this being next to him was intoxicating. It was an almost drunken sensation, and yet Jim felt like he was floating on air as they traveled down the modest laneway.
Eventually Jim’s attention turned to the people walking the path ahead of him. Some had decided to stop by the side of the road, and as they walked, the number of people who had turned off the path grew. “What’s going on here?” Jim asked. “Why have these people stopped? Can’t they see the city up ahead? It’s so close!”
“Everyone who comes to the path and begins to walk it feels the love and acceptance you have known these last moments. They too open their hearts and minds to the hope that was always within them. As they journey with me, they begin to see themselves as I see them, as if their image is reflected in me, and mine in them.
“However, the closer they get to the city, the more they are aware of who else is around them, and who else is entering through the gates of ecstasy. Here for example, are some very well-to-do people. They’ve seen some less fortunate people on the path and don’t want to walk so closely to them. They’ve decided to wait a while until the path clears before venturing onward.”
Jim looked around, ahead and behind of his position on the path. “There really doesn’t look like many breaks in the traffic for them, Jesus.”
“Yes,” said his companion, “It is a great sadness to me that some would choose to delay their journey for these reasons. But there are some great truths that must be learned along the way that can only be accepted when people are ready.”
A little further on, Jim saw some people preaching from the side of the path. A few of the travelers stopped to either listen or argue, while others continued onward, almost ignoring the zeal of those pontificating. They were exhorting anyone who would listen to repent of their ways so they could be saved.
“Aren't we already on the path Lord? What are these people talking about?”
“When did you repent of the things you believed about yourself Jim?”
“The moment I saw you Lord.”
“As did everyone else on this path when they first encountered my unconditional love. Many become uncomfortable with this the further down the path they tread. They feel inadequate or out of control, or they allow their prejudices to influence whether they believe that this love is for others. They make up rules around what repentance should look like so that they can feel like they’ve done something to contribute to the change my love has made in their lives.”
“But those drug users and prostitutes and the drag queens are all passing them by and getting to the city before them!”
“Of course. What is true in you has always been true. It is already done. The ones entering the city have realised that being loved runs more deeply than a superficial covering of righteous living that you can put on and take off.”
The city gates loomed large as they approached. Jim reflected on his journey, and looked back at all the people who still remained on the side of the road. Heaven was so close that they could almost smell it, and yet they had chosen to remain outside, stretched for miles on the expansive desolation. He felt so glad that he had been accompanied on this journey by the One Who Knew Him. So subtle was the judgment that grew in his heart that he barely even recognised it. How could all those people have been so self absorbed to have missed out on true peace?
His companion’s voice woke him out of his thoughts. “Here we are Robert. This is the place I have prepared for you. Be at peace and enjoy our union.”
Wait, what? Robert was his dad’s name. Jim looked up and saw his alcoholic and abusive father strolling through the gates of heaven and into an extravagant party that was taking place inside. Anger rose in Jim’s chest, consuming him in an instant. He stormed away from the gates and started running, as far away as he could get from this place and from his father.
When Jim could run no more, he collapsed with exhaustion. The screams through his parched throat combined with his tears to deplete what moisture was left in Jim's body. He longed for the satiating goodness of the celebration he had witnessed, and yet he could not bring himself to even enjoy the notion of such indulgence in the presence of the man who had so deeply wounded him as a boy.
Kindness approached and held him, sharing in Jim’s tears. “This is the great Truth that all must learn. Everything I am is yours. But it is also for everyone else. Your father has come to trust in this truth as you have and is longing to see you, and to embrace you with tears and gladness as I have. What was dead is now alive. Come, be at peace and enjoy our union.”
Russell has a heart for community and reaching out to the marginalised and forgotten. He is getting to know the God of infinite goodness and is living a joy-filled life with his wife Belinda and three children in South-East Queensland, Australia.
See all previous articles by Russell Croft