Several years ago, just before 9/11 and after the death of two precious people in my life, my father, Billy Graham, urged me to write the book Heaven: My Father's House. He'd been so encouraged by a message I'd given on Revelation 21, which contains the apostle John's eyewitness glimpse of our heavenly home, that he felt I should share it with others in written form. So I did.
But I never dreamed that one day God would use what has encouraged others to encourage me. John's glorious description of heaven has comforted me greatly since my beloved mother, Ruth Bell Graham, went to live there.
Because my mother had been frail and bedridden for quite some time, someone at her funeral asked me when I'd last had a meaningful conversation with her. That question surprised me, because every conversation with my mother was meaningful. And I'd just spoken with her early in the morning before she made her final move to heaven, Our Father's House.
I remember one talk with Mother a few weeks before her faith became sight. We were discussing heaven, and I told her about my recent visit to Westminster Abbey in London. The Abbey is the cathedral where British kings and queens are crowned, where members of the royal family are married, and where outstanding dignitaries are buried. The door for tourists that leads to the cathedral entrance is rather small and insignificant. When I walked through it, I entered a dark, cramped narthex where I bought my admission ticket and guidebook. On the opposite side of the narthex is another door. That one opened into the magnificent, glorious, cavernous sanctuary of Westminster Abbey.
The whole purpose of that cramped, dimly lit narthex is to provide a place for tourists to purchase a ticket and a guidebook, and then to transition into the cathedral itself. I can't imagine anyone clutching a ticket or leafing through a guidebook being solely satisfied with staying only in the narthex of Westminster Abbey.
I told Mother our lives are like that narthex in Westminster Abbey. During this life, we pick up our "ticket" to heaven when we're born again into God's family through faith in Jesus. And we familiarize ourselves with the "guidebook" to heaven—the Bible. How foolish we'd be to want to stay forever in the narthex instead of move into God's Sanctuary!
My mother left the narthex and moved into the Sanctuary of Our Father's House at 5:05 P.M. on June 14, 2007, four days after her 87th birthday. In one sense, I don't feel I'll ever recover from her move. She was so precious to me; her life and death will be at the forefront of my thoughts for years. It's unimaginable that my mother's no longer here … that I can no longer see the sparkle in her eyes, hear the wisdom of her words, laugh at her zinging quips, watch her hands reach out for my granddaughters, or just bask in the blessed joy of her presence.
I'm comforted when I remember Jesus, too, wept at the grave of his beloved friend Lazarus, even though he knew he would raise Lazarus from the dead. My hope of seeing my mother again, my peace in knowing she's in Our Father's House, and my joy in all the precious memories have not stemmed the tears. Yet despite my aching heart, I know her whole purpose for being—and ours—is to transition into heaven, the Sanctuary of Our Father's House.
One day I know I, too, will move out of the narthex to live forever in the Sanctuary. In the meantime, I want to show others a glimpse of Our Father's House so they, too, will look forward with hope to moving there.
Anne Graham Lotz is an author, noted Bible teacher, and founder of AnGeL Ministries. Visit Anne's website: www.AnneGrahamLotz.com. This article first appeared in AnGeL's summer 2007 newsletter. Used with permission.
Copyright © 2011 by the author or Christianity Today/Kyria.com.
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