El Greco, “The Vision of Saint John”, (ca. 1609-14)
The LORD bless you and keep you!
The LORD let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you!
The LORD look upon you kindly and give you peace!
Look up from your keyboard. Look up from your desk. Look up from your kitchen table. Lift your chin. Raise your eyes toward Heaven. Literally, look up.
Align your face to the beam of light that descends upon you. An individual beam of light comes your way. It is just like the beams in heavenly paintings. White. Bright. Clearly separate from the other beams beaming downward. The beam that shines on you is as real as the beams that shone upon all the great saints. For what made them great was a real individual beam of light shinning upon each and every one of them.
God loves you. He watches you. He listens to you. He willed you into existence, and He continues to do so, right up to this very moment. If you are reading this, if you are hearing this, if you are thinking about this, if you are alive at this very moment in any form whatsoever, it is because God is willing it to be so. And it is not an indifferent willing. It is not a willing that comes and goes. It is caring and constant, it is love and more love.
Those of you who are old enough—who were around well before the digital age firmly took over—I’m sure you remember what it was like to go to a small movie house to see a true motion-picture film. The kind that was projected overhead and landed upon a big white screen. We heard that distinct clicking sound that accompanied us the entire time the movie played, and we saw above us—especially if we took our eyes off the attraction on the screen and looked slightly backward and upward—a beam of light that pierced the darkness all around us. And in that beam of light we saw small particles, small white specks dancing within the illuminated beam.
We knew that they were just bits of dust. Bits of dust not brought to life by the light, but instead brought out of hiding by virtue of the light. But to a child beneath that projected image, whether that child was six or seventy-six, they were much more than bits of dust. They were evidence. Evidence that something was going on, that something special was happening. Something magical. Something we didn’t have to understand. Something that no matter how much we understood the science of motion pictures still compelled us to go along for the ride. We simply, with childlike faith, chose to believe in the result landing upon the big white screen on the not-too-distant horizon—so “not-too-distant” that it all seemed within arm’s reach.
Those bits of dust, those imperfections—that under a different light would have gone completely unnoticed, been ignored, been wiped away, or sucked up into a vacuum—under these charmingly cinematic circumstances became an integral part of a wonderful life.
They might as well have been pixie dust.
Look up then. Look up and align your face to the great beam of light shinning down upon you. God’s love is constantly, unrelentingly being projected toward you. In fact, God’s love is what is projecting you into existence. If He stopped thinking about you, if He stopped loving you, for even a moment, the light that is your blessed existence would go out—the motion picture of your life would come to an abrupt end.
But He doesn’t stop. God never stops. And even when our earthly existence does fade to black, God’s light continues to shine upon us, upon our souls, if we accepted His invitation while here on earth. We just need to decide, to decide now, while here in body and soul, whether or not we want to take part in the greatest motion picture that could ever be: The feature film that never ends and is always—each and every scene, “beginning” to “end”—a happy ending without worldly comparison.
There are other options of course:
We could end up being stuck inside a very dark theater with no hope of another show ever being shown again. With absolutely no way out. We might be tempted to call such a place “hell”.
We could end up being stuck inside a very dark theater with no show currently being shown, and no idea when one will be shown—but still with the hope that eventually one will come—but then again, we’d also be painfully aware that it could be a really long time, a really long agonizing wait. We might say that that sounds a lot like “purgatory”.
Heaven, on the other hand, who knows? No one can say for sure how wonderful it is, unless he or she has already been there. All we know is that it is infinitely better than our wildest dreams. And all we can do while we wait is imagine.
I don’t know about you, but the thought of one of those old silent films—where at the end, a couple madly in love heads off hand-in-hand toward a bright horizon—makes me smile.
It may seem silly, but perhaps going to Heaven is something like that. Perhaps the light that passed overhead our entire time here on earth—turning bits of dust into miraculous signs—becomes the film itself, pulling us into the screen, projecting us into the joyous end of what is now a wonderfully silent movie—transforming what was once only make-believe into something abundantly and eternally real.
Look up. Choosing such an ending begins with becoming holy.
Yes, it is possible. No matter how bad we are it truly is possible, by God’s grace.
For holiness is not reserved for the chosen, privileged few. No, holiness is what makes common folks reserved and privileged.
And holiness begins by staring into what is already there: The light of God’s love projected upon us.
Look up. Look inward. Pray.
“Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that love him.”
—1 Corinthians 2:9