When Carol Got a Preview of Heaven

Les and I spent Memorial Day in New York City with our daughter and her family. The weather was perfect. We took the ferry from New Jersey and then walked and walked and rode the subway and then walked some more. This is what my Fitbit showed as we boarded the ferry to head home:

Almost 25,000 steps. Ten and a half miles. It was great exercise on a picture-perfect day. There is so much “scope for the imagination” (thank you, Anne of Green Gables) in New York that you don’t even realize how far you’ve walked—until suddenly you do, and you’re exhausted.

The architecture has always fascinated me. When I was a buyer for Bamberger’s (a division of Macy’s) a billion years ago, I spent so much time looking up, above the storefronts, checking out the facades and gargoyles and ornate scrollwork, that my boss would yell at me, telling me to stop because I looked like a tourist. But this time I was a tourist, and how can you resist staring at this swirled building? Or the New York Public Library?

The food is amazing. We wanted our grandson and his friend who are from Tennessee to experience some of the unique city flavors. So first we shared a soft pretzel from a street vendor. Steamed dumplings, pork buns, egg rolls, and sesame chicken were passed around the table in Chinatown. We savored cannoli and fruit tarts and cream puffs and lobster claws from an Italian pastry shop in Little Italy. We returned to that part of town to nab some true New York–style pizza. A stop at Katz’s Delicatessen to indulge in one of their massive pastrami sandwiches (for all six of us!) was thwarted by the massive line snaking down the block.

But what to me is always the best part of being in New York City is the people. It’s fascinating to be among people of so many ethnicities, some in garb very traditional to their country of origin or religion. I love hearing a variety of languages, listening to see if I can identify what the language might be and guessing what they might be discussing. It always gives me a taste of what awaits in heaven, and that makes me smile.

When I read the Pew Research survey results a few weeks ago that said almost “half of white Republicans say it would bother them at least some to hear a foreign language in public,” I felt sad. Maybe heaven will be a struggle for them.

Because the cacophony of voices I heard in New York reminds me of this passage from Revelation 7 (vs. 9–12):

 “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying,
‘Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’ 

And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying,
‘Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.'”

Someday I am going to be worshipping God with people from “every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues.” All of us worshipping in our unique language or dialect and yet somehow we worship in unison, because we know they King who is worthy of worship. And quite frankly, one language is not enough. All voices raised to the glory of God. I can’t wait.

But I can also enjoy the opportunities to interact with people from other language and cultural groups right now—on city streets, yes, but more than that.

  • I can reach out and start conversations with people who look and sound differently from me, seeking to understand more about their background and to establish friendships.
  • I can experiment with worship handled in a different style or language, because, hey, someday heaven!
  • I can read books by authors from other parts of the world who help me understand another culture better, seeing their beauty, or understand the difficulties of the immigrant experience. Or read Shawn Smucker’s book, Once We Were Strangers: What Friendship with a Syrian Refugee Taught Me about Loving My Neighbor.
  • I can learn to see the beauty of the Creator’s imprint on every human being, even in those who follow a different religion.
  • And I can support organizations like Wycliffe Bible Translators to ensure the Word of God gets translated for the 1600 language groups that still do not have a verse of Scripture in their heart language, giving them the opportunity to know the Creator and want to praise him.

Heaven is coming! On Monday I got a preview.

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