In previous posts I shared my desire for God to move heaven from abstract images to concrete, life-giving, substance. Yesterday, while touring Saint Mary’s Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, God pulled back the veil.
There is a mural painted by Frank Duveneck . My first walk through, I saw only Jesus on the cross and the person I thought might be his mother (actually Mary Magdalene) pleading for a different outcome. I began to cry, her position at the cross is one I’m quite familiar. I came back to the painting later, this time I noticed God behind Jesus’ out stretched arms! Suddenly I realized that there is a heavenly perspective of our circumstances, not just our view at the foot of the cross.
God is not helplessly watching our vulnerability, he is actively, intimately aware of our sorrow, pain, and longings. He not only knows all things work to our good, but how they work to our good. His arms are outstretched even as our arms are outstretched. For example, when Stephen is stoned, “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:56) Heaven is present at this horrific moment and Jesus is standing to receive Stephen. When Saul is about to ratchet up persecution, heaven opens and a blinding light, stopping him in his tracks. Jesus questions Paul directly. “Why are you persecuting me?” Even when heaven is not revealed to us, God is near! The comforter has come to rest, like a dove, on all who believe.
I’ve been struggling with the level of burden God has given to us. But, seeing the record of those who have gone before us, reminds me that heaven is not distant even when I can’t see. I have security, strength and a power to do what he has called me to do. We can paint earthly reminders of those who have gone before us. We can create vaulted ceilings to reflect the beauty and majesty of the heavenly realms and it is breath-taking. How much more so is heaven’s view of us. We are God’s beautiful stain glass window, a glimpse of heavenly glory is revealed in the way he walks with us.