When I was little, I loved the idea of Heaven, but wasn’t so sure about the Second Coming. All the pictures of Heaven were breathtaking—tropical fruit and flowers, exotic animals, Jesus and angels, sparkling gold and shimmering light. But…all the pictures of the Second Coming were really scary—dark, billowy clouds with smoking cities in the background, the whole earth is pretty trashed, and most of the people look terrified! Well, except for a few with their hands raised toward the big white clouds with lots of flashing angels, and Jesus—with a knife! Ok, a sickle, but it took me awhile to understand the harvest symbol. Even as I’ve grown older, it’s much more enjoyable to imagine heaven, and to avoid imagining the terror of the last days and the Second Coming.
But one night, nearing the end of my mission term, I listened to a presentation about Heaven and Jesus’ Second Coming, the first resurrection and the second resurrection, and I suddenly connected with it in a new way. I started thinking about a few weeks away, when I would fly home. It had been a hard year. And as I thought about stepping off that plane one last time in Georgia with a scarred foot and a few scars on my heart, looking into the faces of my family, realizing I finally made it home…I longed for that sense of relief and healing. As much as I would miss what I left behind in the mission-field, I was ready to rest, to eat from Mom’s garden, to listen to Dad’s stories, and to laugh with my brother and sister-in-law again. And to know that I was safe and that I belonged.
I realized that same feeling was perhaps a small taste of what it will feel like to see Jesus coming back for us. In the midst of mayhem, all we see is Jesus! The realization that we have finished the race, the battle is over, and we can come Home. The overwhelming joy at the sight of Someone we love very much, who has come to rescue us and take us to a place we know we truly belong; where we will feel that sense of belonging more deeply in our souls than any place in this world we’ve ever known. The tears of relief, the deep sigh, the weight lifting off our shoulders and disappearing…forever. The physical presence of Jesus who will look us each in the eye and say, “Well done, my friend. Come on Home.” Knowing that somehow, He really is proud of us, really does love us, even though we don’t deserve it. And the best part: knowing that nothing will ever separate us from His love OR His presence. Nothing will be able to steal that joy of coming home.
As many of you wrap up your mission experience in the next bittersweet few weeks, I want to challenge you to remember the hope of Jesus’ return. As you say your goodbyes, let it remind you of that Place of eternal hellos. As you wade through the feelings of readjusting and feeling constantly out-of-place for awhile, remember your true Home, where you really belong. Let Jesus experience each moment with you. He is an expert at changing scary pictures into futures of unquenchable hope—in our transition back home, and in our greatest hope as Adventists.
*Twice a month, we send out a short devotional to our volunteers. This devotional was written by Andrea Keele and sent out May 19, 2014.