I’ve shared a meaningful conversation with Joe Stowell, Moody’s president from 1987-2005, in a bathroom, just the two of us. I’ve bumped into Chuck Colson in a deserted foyer during a conference, away from the crowds. And I’ve also shared an empty hallway with D. James Kennedy.
Each of these encounters were unplanned, quick conversations, but intimate in their respective settings, and such brief episodes I’ll always hold dear.
For a season, a number of years ago, I had repeated ministry with Joni Tada, a personal hero and one whom I could call ‘friend’ in all the best ways. I led some of her family conferences for families with members having various disabilities, took phone calls from her, was a guest on her radio show, sang with her numerous times onstage and once even had the blessed privilege of feeding her lunch.
Over the course of years, my path led me to other ministry callings and, thus, out of touch with my friend, but I remain fully touched by her imprint on my life. Being in her presence was like sitting with one of the apostles, for me. Or what it might seem like to be in a room with Teresa of Avila or Madam Guyon. I’d never known such a devoted saint and heavenly-oriented soul.
Joni’s reflection on heaven is indicative of just how real it can be for the really broken. In Heaven: Your Real Home she writes:
I can scarcely believe it; I, with shrivelled, bent fingers, atrophied muscles, gnarled knees, and no feeling from the shoulders down, will one day have a new body, light, bright, and clothed in righteousness—powerful and dazzling.
Can you imagine the hope this gives someone spinal cord-injured like me? Or someone who is cerebral palsied, brain-injured, or who has multiple sclerosis? Imagine the hope this gives someone who is manic depressive.
No other religion, no other philosophy promises new bodies, hearts and minds. Only in the Gospel of Christ do hurting people find such incredible hope.
– Joni Earekson Tada, Heaven: Your Real Home
She tells of a Christian convention during which the speaker, at the close of the message, asked his audience to kneel for prayer. She looked on as each made the sacred gesture, but, of course she, being a quadriplegic, couldn’t do it herself. It was all too overwhelming and she couldn’t stop the tears from flowing.
Being brought up in a Reformed Episcopal Church, it was particularly hard as she’d been accustomed to kneeling for prayer.
Ah, but then her heart warmed as she remembered the promise of resurrection and restoration of all things, including bodies:
Sitting there, I was reminded that in heaven I will be free to jump, dance, kick and do aerobatics. And although I’m sure Jesus will be delighted to watch me rise on tiptoe, there’s something I plan to do that may please him more.
If possible, somewhere, sometime before the party gets going, sometime before the guests are called to the banquet table at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, the first thing I plan to do on resurrection legs is to drop on grateful, glorified knees. I will quietly kneel at the feet of Jesus.
To not move will be my chance to demonstrate heartfelt thanks to the Lord for the grace He dispensed year after year when my hands and legs were limp and motionless. To not move will be my last chance to present a sacrifice of praise – paralyzed praise!
My innermost being, broken and touched by the healing hands of Jesus, cries amen. This, too, is my strongest desire, oh Lord. I want to lie still before your Majesty on that day, just as my sister, that the Lamb would receive the reward of His suffering.
Selah, beloved, and Maranatha!