Thursday, March 10, 2011

Dead Man Undone

I felt like I had just run up a mountain. My dead heart was racing, my lungs heaving. What had I done?

What I felt most was shame and horror. How could I, a Dead Man, qualified only for a brief visit on the most extreme outskirts of Heaven, have the unmitigated gall to ask an audience of the King!

On-planet I had thoroughly studied the passages in Scripture where man met God, and in every instance - every instance - man was undone. John fell down as if dead at a mere vision of His Lord. Daniel's vitality was instantly drained, as if he were a toilet being flushed. Peter cowered in the bow of the very boat he captained. Isaiah fell down in abject shame at the sight of the LORD high and lifted up. Moses had to be hidden in the cleft of a rock to protect himself from the glory of God as He condescended to reveal to him the afterglow of His glory. These mighty men of faith, heroes, warriors, prophets, priests, lawgiver, and holy apostles, all rightly knew their utter unworthiness when confronted with He who inhabits eternity.

And here was me, Dead Man, boldly asking to be in His presence. No, more than that; shouting out my presumption in self-immolating desperation. I was clearly insane.

"What have you just done?" my companion asked me, much more gently than I would have expected.

I could not look up from staring at the rich marble floor of the Balcony, let alone lift my face to see my questioner. I did not think I would be able to hold my head up again. Ever.

"What have you done, Dead Man?" he repeated when I did not answer. I could not speak in my shame to tell him I could not speak. I was, literally, dumbstruck.

"I have sinned against God," I finally managed to croak. My voice was dust and ashes.

"What have you done?" he asked for the third time.

"I have forgotten my place," I whispered, tears of humiliation now streaming down my face. I was shaking as if in the aftermath of some horrible accident that I had barely survived, certain of impending destruction.

He was silent then for a timeless time. That he was not upbraiding me, or cursing me, or decrying my arrogance filled me with ever greater anxiety. And still, I could not face him.

The next instant my knees gave out and I dropped like a meteor. One moment I was upright and trembling, the next I was nanoseconds away from collapsing in a boneless heap.

That is when he caught me in arms rippling with understated strength, like cushioned steel. And he lowered me to the floor, gently, compassionately. I felt like a little child rescued from a precipitous fall.

"No," he said, as he cradled me to the smooth, lustrous floor. "You have not forgotten your place," he said quietly. "You have voiced the deepest cry of your old, world-weary heart, and by doing so, you have remembered your place."

Those words unleashed within me a flood of relief and gratitude like I have never known before, and I sobbed uncontrollably in his arms. He simply held me without condition, or the slightest hint of recrimination. It was the very definition of safe.

"He purchased you forever with His blood; lovingly, willingly, asking nothing but your faith and love in return. He died on that Cross in your place precisely, emphatically, exclusively, so you could be in His Presence for all eternity. You are His child. His beloved. His inheritance. His priceless treasure.

"Do not think for even a blink of an eye, do not even let it enter into your head, that He does not want you near Him. That is why He suffered the penalty you rightly deserved. He sacrificed Himself for you! 

"He loves you with an everlasting love. Don't you see? Don't you understand?

"This place, this magnificent Balcony He prepared just for you, just as He has prepared a place for you when you return to remain forevermore, so that where He is, there you will be also."

All this was said to me so gently, so quietly, almost in a whisper. He spoke as if I were a child overwhelmed by longing and grief. He spoke as a father comforting a broken-hearted toddler brought to the utter end of himself by thoughts and emotions beyond his ability to bear.

"Our Lord, our King, our Sovereign God, longs for your company, my son," he said. "If you have the slightest doubt, look to the Cross!"