The skeptic in me says, “Hope of heaven? Yeah, you hope.” Last Sunday our son Nate and his wife Jayne canceled dinner with us because he had a migraine. Or maybe the flu. On Monday he went to the doctor and was given migraine meds. On Tuesday he went to urgent care, who told him to go straight to the ER. They did a CT and sent him home. On Wednesday morning he returned to the ER. The doctor casually inquired, “So, how long have you had this tumor?” On Wednesday afternoon he was flown to UC SanFrancisco with a definitive diagnosis of a brain tumor. He couldn’t see anymore. His vitals were so wonky, he was struggling to even keep his eyes open. On Thursday his family filled the Neuro ICU and prayed and hoped and wished and cried. On Friday he had surgery. They pulled that nasty tumor right through his nose. On Saturday and Sunday he was cared for and given an eye patch and reminded how to stand up and walk, and on Monday—this afternoon—he was home.
We’re all feeling a little sucker-punched. We’ve got your standard panic attacks, stress eating, and anger. Everything hurts. Hope of heaven. Yeah. Because we’ve been this road once, twice, three, four times before already. It’s a bad family joke when you’re wondering which Fletcher kid is next. We’ve weathered a deadly virus and permanent brain damage, a car accident in which I ran over a child, a ruptured appendix and sepsis, and crippling mental illness. And those are just our children. In the past three years, we’ve had our own cancer scare and tumor removal and wept for two precious family members fighting their particular cancer battles.
It’s rough, folks. I’m sick of sitting in ICU waiting rooms. I give up. Hope of heaven. I woke up one night in a hotel room in San Francisco last week and heard the words of a John Mark McMillan song we sing sometimes at church: I could lay my head in Sheol I could make my bed at the bottom of the darkness deep Oh but there is not a place I could escape you Your heart won’t stop coming after me I felt as if my head was lain in Sheol. In hell. I felt hopeless. That last line, though, is the truth of the gospel and the hope that flickers a tiny, tiny atom of light: His heart won’t stop coming after me. I decide to rest there. It’s all I have. Some days my theology is rock-solid but most days it isn’t. Most days I’m a skeptic and I question the Bible and I push the cute Christian sayings off the cliff and I cover my ears and chant, “LA LA LA LA LA!” I stamp my foot and put my hands on my hips and square off with God. And still, his heart won’t stop coming after me. His heart. I can sit here in my skepticism and still understand that he loves me.
It’s all I have, folks. The hope of heaven. If we’re being honest, it’s all any of us have. We just have to ask him to help us believe it. If we can’t, then what hope is there?