Heaven’s Table

The day after Christmas I went to see Les Misérables in the theater with my parents. A scene came on that struck me deeply and the next thing I knew I was in the middle of, well, I am not sure. Some might call it a vision, others a vivid imagination, still others wishful thinking. As for me, I don’t know what to call it other than an answered prayer.

Before I tell the story there are three people it will be helpful to remember: David – the little boy that helped us with the census in Tipitapa, Heyner – the little boy whose mother tells him she doesn’t love him, and Reina – the little girl and her family that battles extreme poverty and hunger. Ok, now what happened.

Overwhelming Beauty

For a moment I was gone, I was not in the theater, I was…somewhere else.

I was in a beautiful city that shined brighter than any star or even the sun itself. I don’t remember much of the city or the room I was in (that was not the important part), I just remember the overwhelming feeling of good and the distinct lack of evil. It was so unreal that it had to be not of this world.

The next thing I knew I was seated at a table. It was the biggest table I had ever seen in all my life and there were people all around it. And though there were more people than I could count, no one felt far away. Everyone was close enough to talk to, to reach out and touch, and to share the meal with. It was the strangest and grandest thing my mind has ever experienced.

On the table was food unlike anything I had ever seen. There were thousands of different dishes all within arm’s reach. Each one of them was different and each one of them was never-ending. There were no fights over who got what, no waiting for refills or wanting for more. There was more than enough of everything for everyone and everyone’s favorite dish was richer and fuller than any of us had ever tasted.

After absorbing the site and smell of the food, I looked up to see who was at the table with me. And that’s when I could see their faces. It was everyone I dearly loved and many I didn’t yet know. They were all there – the children I have watched suffer and even die in Nicaragua, all the members of my family, all my friends that have my heart, and thousands more I have never met. But they were not the only ones there. To my right, sitting in the middle of everyone, was Jesus.

My soul was overcome with every emotion I had ever experienced. I wanted to weep, to fall on my face, to do something that gave him the honor he deserved, but he gave me a look that stopped me. He used no words but still I heard him say, “This is not your time. I want you to see something first.”

And see I did.

Words of Truth

Even now, if I close my eyes and surrender my heart I can see them all again. To my left I see David – the little boy from Tipitapa. He is smiling, confident, boldly telling HIS story to everyone at the table. Everyone is mesmerized by the intricacy of the great tale of his life and how God took his pain and used it to transform the world. He finishes and there is silence. He looks at Jesus as he looked at me in Tipitapa – questioning if he has done ok, if he is enough.

Jesus looks him in the eyes with a seriousness that freezes time. Everyone stops, looks, and waits. And then it happens. Jesus smiles. Immediately there is a cheer that starts from the people at the table but seems to come from everything and everywhere. Everything is rejoicing. The walls, the chairs, even the food. I can’t explain how, but it is happening. It is deafening and rattles the very foundation of the city itself.

And David knows it is for him.

He looks around at each of us, a serious look on his face as his eyes fill with tears. And then he fixes his gaze on Jesus. He closes his eyes for a moment, pushing out the tears. With his eyes still closed he begins to smile as the cheers are absorbed into his soul. When he opens his eyes again the tears are gone and he is new. The old David, weighed down by lies and the past, is gone. A new creation has been made and His soul is forever healed.

He enters rest.

Across from me is Reina. She is stronger, her eyes twinkling with life and joy. Next to her is her mother and sisters and brothers. All the same. They are no longer tired. They are no longer questioning their worth or if they are strong enough, good enough, worthy enough. I can see in Reina’s eyes that she has strength renewed.

All around them is the finest food ever prepared, the finest drinks, and the finest plates and cups. She looks down at it all and is overwhelmed. For a moment I see her remember the hunger they felt every day of their lives, and she looks to Jesus pleading for a different path, a different truth.

He tenderly reaches over, takes a loaf of bread, breaks it, and, starting with Reina, He places a piece of it on each of their plates. He smiles and says, “My child whom I dearly love. All I have is yours and you shall never hunger again. Eat, drink, be merry, and know you are loved.”

As the words leave Jesus’ mouth Reina sees the same thing I see. We both watch as those words transform into a fortress about her entire family, standing tall and firm without equal or foe willing to attack. The words shatter all the lies the devil has ever spun, it removes any doubts they ever had about how important they were in the great love story of the gospel, and those words reach into the deepest parts of their being to answer the most profound questions of their souls.

I watch as they are healed.

They enter rest.

To my right is Heyner. He is sitting in the lap of Jesus himself. Our Lord – the King of Kings – is whispering truth into his ear. Heyner’s face is serious. He is listening intently. I cannot hear all the words of redemption being said but I can see the impact on Heyner as tears come to his eyes. He closes them tight, leans his head back into the breast of Jesus, letting go of all the shields and weapons he needed to survive in the world and letting Jesus’ warmth and truth take their place.

Then Jesus says for all to hear, “This is my son, of whom I am so proud. I love him more than the whole world and here he sits in the seat of honor. My dear Heyner, here you will never hurt again, for I am your father and this is your home.”

Heyner turns his body, throws his arms around Jesus and buries his head into his chest. Jesus laughs the laugh of a proud, loving father, hugs him back with a combination of strength and gentleness only the Lord can combine, and lets Heyner weep tears of joy. As each tear falls it carries with it all the pain and hurt from his past, all the horrible words that were spoken, all the abusive blows of his mother and stepfather, all of the times that he felt alone and abandoned.

Then there are no more tears. All that is left is peace.

Heyner enters rest.

I look around the table again and I see in everyone the same thing I see in David, Reina, and Heyner. I see peace. I see joy. I see love. And I know that Jesus has taken the time to speak truth to every single one of them in the same way.

I am overwhelmed by the goodness of it all.

The Return

And then I was back. I was back in the movie. It couldn’t have taken more than a second because it was the same scene, same actor singing, same sentence even. I tried not to react but I wasn’t even sure of what had just happened or what it meant. I couldn’t hold it in and I started weeping.

I tried to stop the tears but they just kept coming. The words of the song struck me deeply and the scene of the movie tore me apart until I just let it all go. Tears flowed down and I could barely even see the screen through the blur of the water in my eyes.

After the movie I wept more in the lobby as we waited for my Dad. My mom was with me and shielded me so others couldn’t see. I stood there, blocked by a wall and my mom’s protection and begged God for our children in Nicaragua, for my family, and selfishly for my own heart.

I didn’t think I was going to be able to stop weeping but then something changed. Somehow my heart trusted the Lord with my pain and doubt and brokenness. I didn’t want to, and I don’t even know how it happened. All I can say is that He took it from me.

I wanted to hold on to it, to keep it within my control, to reason it out. But he wouldn’t let me. Instead, he reminded me of his faithfulness and He restored the rock of hope he had long ago placed in my heart. He then helped me put my feet back upon it and He slowed my tears.

Not My Own

My heart still hurts and I still have tears in my eyes when I think about this experience. But all of what I feel is tempered by hope. I don’t know how that hope came to be so strong. It just happened. All I can say with confidence is that it is an outpouring of God’s mercy, provision and faithfulness. It is His hand reaching into my heart to scoop out the doubt that breaks me and replace it with the faith I need to sustain my soul.

It is grace.

It is mercy.

It is love.

Now I sit here writing to you. It is weird for me to share this. It is a part of my experience with the Lord I would normally not tell anyone about. But this time I feel like it is not my own. Instead I feel like it is ours to share and to use to remind us that the reality of the brokenness of this world can be devastating to our souls BUT that this world is not our home.

That this world is not the end.

That this world is not in control.

It belongs to all of us because it represents what we fight for every day – what God is pursuing us for – so that we can steadfastly hope in the fulfillment of the eternal promise. The promise that pain will be destroyed, that hurt will burn away, and that all that will be left is the joy, peace and love of our Father.

Yearning for More

Revelation 7: 13-17 is one of my favorite verses in the Bible because of the hope it represents. It says:

Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”

I answered, “Sir, you know.”

And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore,

“they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.
‘Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat down on them,’ nor any scorching heat.
For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’
‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’”

I cannot wait to watch this come true; to watch God redeem our children, our friends, our family, and our own souls. I cannot wait to see every tear wiped away, to watch hunger disappear, and to watch the presence of the Lord provide an eternal shelter.

That day is coming, but it is not here yet.

So until that day does come we will fight for these children. We will battle the forces of evil to speak truth where lies have been told. We will go to war over the injustice that has permeated our world and reclaim hearts, lives, and souls in the name of the Great I AM.

And with the provision of our Lord, with your help, and with the days we have left we will make our purpose singular and focused: to let God’s love use us how it may to share with as many as we can the great hope we have in Him.

Then one day we will sit at that table together. We will share in the meal of redemption. And we, as a family, will enter rest.

4 Comments

  1. Santiago Hernandez says:

    What an amazing story! I am sure that I am not the first person to read it and be thankful for what you have shared with us. What you are doing in Nicaragua is not only admirable, but also genuinely powerful. When I read this story and the experiences of those 3 kids and their families, I reminded myself that life is much more than what our ears can hear, what our eyes can see, and what our hands can feel. Life is about each one of our stories, and how they interconnect with the stories of those around us. Life is also about God, about a greater truth in which -regardless of our personal beliefs- we can all find comfort and forgiveness.

    I wish I could have an answer to understand the real meaning of what you experienced in that movie theater. What I know for sure, is that your story and the story of With One Hope is one full of God. Thank you for sharing.

  2. chris says:

    Santiago, thank you for your words, my friend. They mean so much and are a great encouragement. I think you’re spot on that life is much deeper than any of us can comprehend. Maybe some day we will, but until then I also agree that life is all about how all of our lives come together to love God and love each other. Thanks again for your words.

  3. Amy Morris says:

    Chris – thank you so much for sharing this vision. What a sweet picture of Jesus love and redemption…and a table I long to sit at. Without doubt the Lord is speaking to you and building you up for all he has in store for the work you are doing. I’m constantly amazed at what he is doing through you and so proud of your faithful obedience to him. Keep it up brother!

  4. chris says:

    Amy – thank you for your kind words. We are so grateful for your support and for being our advocate! Thank you for all you are doing to share the Kingdom’s love with the least of these!

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