A friend gave me a small reminder of what Heaven is going to be like.
I was having lunch with Pastor Michael and Jane Perry after the morning services in the First Baptist Church of Moss Point, Mississippi, where they serve. We got started talking about families or football or something, and they said Jane’s father–now in Heaven–was the biggest Alabama fan on the planet.
“He had Bear Bryant pictures all over the house,” she said. “He’s gone but they’re still there.”
That’s when I related my little tale of the 1980 game between Bama and Mississippi State. As I began talking, Michael started smiling. I said, “Have I told you this story?” He said, “No, but I remember the game. Go ahead, and I’ll tell you when you finish.”
Okay. The story—
We had driven from our home in Columbus, MS, to Jackson for the game. Alabama had a 17-game winning streak going and State was a perennial doormat for the Southeastern Conference. Even though we liked both teams–Columbus is located between both universities on U.S. 82–we were rooting for Bama that day.
When the game ended, the score was State 6, Alabama 3.
Three hours later, arriving home and pulling into the driveway, we saw people inside our garage. Several of our neighbors were painting a large sign for my house, no doubt rubbing in the loss.
One of them ran up to the car and said, “You’re back too soon. Come back in 30 minutes.”
The family went in the back door and I left to wash the car. On my return, my neighbors had rigged up a massive sign covering the front porch of my house, complete with floodlights in the yard. The sign read: “The Bulldogs blitzed!” “State 6, Bama 3.” Someone had done a pretty fair drawing of the bulldog sauntering off after the victory, with me on my knees, wearing my hat with the big ‘A’. Underneath all that were two large captions:
—“If my people will humble themselves….”
–“Our land has been healed.”
It made the front of Monday’s newspaper.
I still have that folded up sign stored away in the attic somewhere.
And then Pastor Michael Perry told me his side of the story–
“I told you Jane’s daddy was the biggest Alabama fan. After that game, they were supposed to come up to our house, near Moulton, Alabama, where I was pastoring.”
“When I saw that Alabama had lost that game, I went in and told Jane, ‘Your folks aren’t coming. Your dad is sick.’”
“She said, ‘What do you mean they’re not coming? He’s not sick. I just talked with them this morning.’”
“I said, ‘I’m telling you he’s sick and they’re not coming.’”
“She said, ‘I don’t believe you. That’s crazy.’”
“We went back and forth like that a little bit.”
“Thirty minutes later, the phone rang and it was Jane’s mother cancelling the visit. ‘Your dad is not feeling well.’”
Michael and Jane were rolling with laughter at the memory of how much that loss affected her beloved father.
Now, think of this: here we are several decades after the event and I learn one more aspect to that game about which I remember a hundred details.
Wonder how many other people there are out there who recall that same game and have a story associated with it?
A Heavenly thing.
In Heaven, something you remember from earth, something monumental or catastrophic, something exciting or depressing, but something that made a lasting impression on you at the time will come up in conversation and you will make a delightful discovery:
Almost everyone involved in that story is there.
You get to hear all aspects of it. You learn dimensions of that tale you never knew about.
You see what God was doing behind the scenes.
You will hear how the time you lost your job provided the opportunity for someone else to take that same position which turned out to be an answer to prayer for them and learn how it changed their lives forever. You didn’t know this and perhaps had carried ill feelings for all this time. You think, “If I had only known.”
A preacher will learn how that sermon or that series of sermons which seemed to bomb actually ended up touching someone’s life he never knew about, and how it bore fruit for eternity. He will think, “If I had only known, I would have been so encouraged about the next time I preached.”
And likewise, there will be bad news.
The church boss who caused such a stink in his church that it ended up driving that minister out of the Lord’s work, will have to sit through a scene where he learned how many lives he affected forever.
Oh? You don’t think that will happen, because “it wouldn’t be heaven”? (Where did you get the idea that there will be no downside to our celestial existence? Not from the Bible.)
I can’t cite chapter and verse, but don’t be surprised.
I’m personally confident that in Heaven–or it might possibly be at Judgement–we will learn “the rest of the story.”
I had posted an article on the testimony of Roy Robertson who while the battle of Pearl Harbor raged around and over him, fired blanks at the Japanese from his deck machine gun on the battleship West Virginia, and how God used that as a metaphor of his life to that point so that he made a commitment that morning for his life to count for God.
Seminary Professor Reggie Ogea sent a link for the obituary of Roy Robertson, who as it turns out, had died only recently and was buried in Denton, Texas. The article had pictures with it and went into detail about Robertson’s life. I felt like I was reading about an old friend whom I had never met.
I was getting the rest of the story.
The Apostle Paul said, “Here we see through a glass darkly.”
We know only one dimension of most of the acts of our lives and the stories in our world.
“But then, we shall see face to face….. Then, I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (I Corinthians 13:12-13)
Until then, be faithful. And pastor, be encouraged. God is using you far more than you can tell now.