“For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened–not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 5:1-8 [ESV]
Since Sarah left I’ve learned that she talked a lot about heaven with family and friends. She talked about heaven with me but stopped short of saying she “can’t wait to go.” The same can’t be said for her friends and sisters, though, she readily made it known to them that she was ready and excited. Initially when her sisters told me she had been telling them she was excited about heaven I thought it was just a desire to be away from a fallen world and a desire to be in heaven for all the obvious reasons. After all, we all look forward to unimaginable beauty, the presence of the Lord and freedom from the pain and suffering of this world. As I’ve spent the past weeks reading her journals, though, I’ve learned I underestimated her heart and desires.
Over and over again in her journals I read her frustration with her fallenness. Her tender heart grieved over moments of impatience or sometimes struggling to love someone well. She commiserated with Paul in Romans 7, she longed to walk in obedience to Christ but regularly found herself repenting at the end of the day for failure to obey despite her best intentions. Her precious tender heart poured out words of brokenness into her journals each time she fell short of the standard of Christ.
“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. … For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Romans 7:15, 22-24 [ESV]
Today as I was spending time in 2 Corinthians 5 it suddenly hit me. I underestimated my child. She understood and embraced something I had failed to fully appreciate. Her desire for heaven was not fueled by wanting to avoid pain and looking forward to the beauty of heaven, it was actually fueled by her longing for righteousness. She understood life on this earth would be continually about sanctification, but she longed for glorification. She longed for death to be stripped away and to be swallowed up by life. She longed to be with her Savior in the unimaginable beauty of heaven, but she also longed for deliverance from her flesh and its constant inclination toward sin.
“For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” Romans 8:22-23 [ESV]
Sarah longed to be swallowed up by life, and in so doing she had greater maturity than her mother. I’ve loved the Lord since I was five years old, but I also love this world. I love good and wonderful things in this world. I love being a wife and a mother, I love investing in college students and high schoolers, I love spending time with family. I am convicted now that I have loved those things more than righteousness, I have never truly groaned to put on my heavenly dwelling. I have always longed to stay here in this world, heaven is for later, I have too much to look forward to here first.
Sarah told Katelyn she couldn’t wait to go to heaven. Katelyn told her not to say that because she had lots of stuff to do here first, that she needed to get married and have a family. Sarah said that would be great but heaven would be better. I never would have said that at her age. She understood so much more than me, she got it and I did not, she groaned and was burdened for her mortal being to be swallowed up by life.
I have a longing for heaven now, but I will be quick to admit it is significantly impacted by a longing to be with my precious Sarah again. But I also get it now, Sarah showed me something I failed to appreciate and I am thankful for it. I am joining her by longing to be liberated from this body of death, to be swallowed up by Life. I have accepted the challenge left by her testimony and have set my heart on using every part of my “moment” to point others to Him as I eagerly await abiding with my Savior and Sarah, groaning with longing to be free of death and swallowed up by life.
Okay so in yesterday’s quiet time I kind of gave a hint of what’s been going on, but I want to write a little more to get more of the story so I can remember all that God has done. So I just said something stupid and got in trouble. I don’t want to get into the details because I’m sure my story is one-sided, but I kept replaying the scenario over and over again in my head and I was beating myself up about it. I was discouraged because no matter how hard I try, I still make mistakes and make a mess of things. But then the Holy Spirit reminded me of grace. I will never be perfect and that’s why there’s grace. My sins are eternally covered. And then I read Psalm 119. Two verses really encouraged me because it was exactly where I was. It was Psalm 119:9-11 and 28-30.
Artwork: Sarah Harmening