“If the plane crashes, then we’ll just go to heaven earlier!”
We were about to board a plane to Sydney when my friend said it. We’d been talking about MH370 and other recent aviation tragedies. It was meant to be comforting, I’m sure, but I was disturbed.
I was not ready to meet God.
I haven’t achieved anything significant in my life! I haven’t found someone to grow old and happy with! Nor had any kids yet! And I still need to decorate my dream house with the books I’ve been stockpiling for my it’s-gonna-be-epic bookshelf!
My well-conditioned, well-drilled Christian brain immediately hit back: How could you even think that? Does not the joy of meeting God far surpass all these things?
While I had grown to love God’s presence, I couldn’t help but be fearful at the thought of actually meeting Him – coming face-to-face with the One who searches hearts and examines minds.
My instinctive thoughts were all the things I would miss out on if I were to die anytime soon. But in that split second in which my innermost thoughts surfaced, I learnt something about my heart and its true treasures: I was choosing the things of the world over the God I professed to love.
I was still holding on to the worldly notions of what would bring happiness that I’ve had since I was a child, way before I met Jesus.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with kids, marriage and beautiful bookshelves. They aren’t the problem.
The problem comes when we prize these gifts above the One who gives them (James 1:17).
What I learnt before that flight was that God wasn’t my only treasure. I had not captured in my heart the surpassing worth of knowing Christ (Philippians 3:8). I was settling for the world.
In reflection, I thought about the sweet moments in my life when God had surprised me with His presence:
- I was strolling home on a beautiful day. Nothing seemed terribly ordinary, when I suddenly felt His smile upon me. My heart leapt for joy.
- I opened my Bible in a hurry to get a passage in, before I headed out for the day. I didn’t expect much, but the Spirit opened my imagination, giving me backstage-access to the unfolding drama at the Red Sea.
- When my heart was burdened and heavy with darkness, He said that He would show me a new way to live: In the lightness of freedom, and in company with Him.
But at the same time, I was afraid of meeting God face-to-face.
I haven’t become the person God would be pleased with. I have so many more things about myself that I need to change; I need more time.
That was how I felt – why I wasn’t ready to meet God. While I had grown to love God’s presence, I couldn’t help but be fearful at the thought of actually meeting Him (Romans 14:12) – coming face-to-face with the One who searches hearts and examines minds (Jeremiah 17:10).
The comfort I have is that, as I grow to be more like Him, He will see the good work He has started in me all the way through to completion.
I was too focused on the truth about Romans 3:23, that as a sinner, I should have no business being in the presence of a Holy God. In my self-loathing, I’d forgotten the truth that follows in Romans 3:24: That all are justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
When we think about the sinfulness of our heart and the mistakes we still make, we’re ashamed to enter into God’s light. But the truth is that we only have to be afraid if pleasing God is not our priority.
This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. (John 3:19-21)
God knows who we are – sinners, redeemed by His grace. We have an assurance that when we choose to draw near to Him and live in His light, there’s forgiveness instead of shame. There’s grace instead of condemnation. There’s eternal freedom.
All great dichotomies, none of which make sense. And yet we have them. That’s grace!
The comfort I have is that, as I grow to be more like Him, He will see the good work He has started in me all the way through to completion. So that when I finally meet Him, I will not be afraid, but satisfied.
As for me, I will be vindicated and will see your face;
When I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness. (Psalm 17:15)
Moments later, the engines in the wings of the plane roared to life. I took to the air — a little closer to God.