As quickly as I resurfaced on the Balcony, as if to draw a deep breath, I was plunged again back into the underworld of earthly life.
I recognized the moment instantly. It was early in the morning of the day I was "shot dead". I held my youngest daughter on my lap as she wept broken-hearted, and not for the first time, over the loss of someone she had loved dearly for nearly half her short life, and who was taken away from her seemingly without reason or warning or cause.
"Why, Daddy?" she asked me plaintively. "Why did that happen?"
What could I say to her? How could I explain when the whole thing made no sense to me as an adult? What possible reason could I give her that would satisfy her young broken heart?
"What did I do wrong?" she whispered desperately, barely able to voice her question through the flood of tears that cascaded freely down her sweet innocent face.
"Oh, honey!" I said, as I pulled her closer. "You did nothing wrong! This is as far from your fault as it is possible to get!"
She shook with sobs then that fractured my soul as I comforted her as best I knew how.
"Why did Jesus let this happen, Daddy? Doesn't He love me?"
And at that instant, a deep vitriolic fury nearly engulfed me. The deadly and horrible desire to exact mindless vengeance against anything and everything that could so hurt this child's heart ignited like a holocaust within me. It was all I could do to remain quiet and let her grief work itself out as I continued to hold her and stroke her hair.
But I knew I was powerless to remedy anything, and that my anger would avail nothing, and would only exacerbate her heart's pain, no matter what my intentions.
God help me! I heard my mind cry out, as I watched the scene replay from the recent past. I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs at the unfairness of it all, even from Heaven.
I could look below no longer. The inflamed nerves of emotion were too exposed, too raw.
I looked up at Him who died to save me.
"Do you know why I have commanded that you love your enemies?" He asked me gently. "Do you know why I have decreed that you bless those who persecute you, and do good to those who hate you?"
I could not sufficiently marshal my thoughts to answer. The image of my heart-broken daughter obscured all rational thought, and instead of responding as asked, I wanted to cry out to Him like she did, Why did you let this happen, Lord? Don't You love me?
He smiled sadly, this benevolent God Who Weeps, and I knew beyond all doubt that He did indeed love me and my daughter, and all His children, more than I could even begin to comprehend.
"Because," He continued, answering, "hatred is a burden too costly to bear. It eats at you from inside out and destroys the most precious part of you and scars your soul as no other sin can. It binds you in chains that strangles your life, and enslaves you to bitterness. It is a crushing weight that prohibits your from soaring in the joy that I long to give you. It forces you to exchange My liberty for a prison entirely of your own making, and blinds you to the truth that will make you free. It is as murder, and defiles all it touches."
"If you allow hatred and anger to darken your heart, it will harden you to My goodness and grace, and you will know neither peace, nor joy. I would not have my children suffer so. Forgiveness and love are the most powerful weapons at your disposal; freely given you through Me. Do you think, Dead Man, that I care for you less than you care for your own child?" He asked.
His voice was gentle and filled with compassion, but His question took the breath from my lungs and made me tremble.
"Forgive me, Lord," I pleaded yet again, unable to say more as I repented in dust and ashes.
"The trials that come your way in life - yours, your daughter's and all who name me as Lord - are in My hands. They come from Me. They are meant to refine you, in the crucible of suffering if necessary, because I am more concerned for your character than your comfort. Your holiness is of far more value to Me than your mere happiness. I intend for you far more good than you can ask or think. Do you believe this?" He asked.
His eyes now pierced me through me like fire, burning away all pretense and delusional pride, instantly vaporizing whatever paltry, self-serving conception I had of fairness or justice or what I or my daughter deserved.
I could do nothing but fall on my face in abject realization of who I was and in Whose Presence I had thought to remain upright. How could I dare to stand before such a One as He? Holy. Righteous. A Consuming Fire.
Then, after yet another timeless interval where I had neither the strength nor the courage to move, I felt Him lift me to my feet once again.
"Do not fear little one," He said, His countenance less terrible and awesome, His voice filled with love. "It is your Father's pleasure to give you a Kingdom that will never fail, and for you to live in His Presence in fullness of joy forevermore."
And I knew, with more certainty than ever before, that He works all things together for good to those who love Him.