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You’re the closest to heaven that I’ll ever be and I don’t want to go home right now. All I can taste is this moment, and I all I can breathe is your life. When sooner or later it’s over, I just don’t wanna miss you tonight.” ~ “Iris”

I feel like I had a revelation on Sunday, and I want to tell someone about it, but I have no super close friends, so I guess you’re it. Congrats.

Sunday after church I made the last-minute decision to attend an open garden visit that an acquaintance of mine was having at her house. Well, the mother of an acquaintance…AND an acquaintance. The mother of an acquaintance that has become an acquaintance.

Anyway, I was half an hour late anyway because I went to a nursery with my sister and my mom just after church, but since it was an open garden, the arrival time didn’t really matter. I drove there with my camera (because I wanted to take pictures of their beautiful flowers) and I parked my car. Almost as soon as I turned the key and removed it from the ignition, I began to feel something in my belly that I hadn’t felt for a long time.

Fear.

I mean, sure, I’ve been nervous and afraid a few times—okay, a lot—but it was just a small, nagging thing. This was full-blown terror, barely able to walk, my hands shaking like leaves in the wind. I got out of my car and started—slowly—up the road towards their driveway. When I reached it, I found something out: I couldn’t go one step further. So I did what any sensible person would do.

I sat down outside the gate, pleasantly shielded from the yard by bushes, and I started to pray.

I don’t know if it was Satan attacking me, but it didn’t matter at the time (if it was, then there must have been something there that he didn’t want me exposed to). All I knew was that I was not going in there on my own. I told God how scared I was. “I don’t know any of these people,” I said, “This is so far from ‘my thing’ that I can’t even believe I drove here. I can’t do this. I can’t do this.” I kept repeating those four words over and over to God, begging Him for courage or direction or really anything that I could get from Him.

I sat there for half an hour. Once I even walked back to my car to get a drink from my water bottle, still shaking, wondering if I should just leave. But I knew I had told my family that I was coming, and they expected me to return in a couple hours with a camera full of pictures. I could have gone to the park, I realized, because I had brought my football, as I always do when I go places. But that didn’t seem appealing to me, and I didn’t like the idea of lying (even without speaking, it still counts as lying) to my parents.

A few other people drove up and I hid behind the cars as they walked in. I watched them go, all happy and smiling and talking to each other, and I wondered what I often do when I see this: “How do they do that like it’s nothing? How do they make it look so easy?” For me, that has never been easy, and I’m beginning to wonder if it ever will be.

Finally, the fear subsided. I saw a few older people walking up the road and knew they were going in. I wandered to a nearby flower to take a couple pictures until they reached me, knowing that it would be a lot easier to go in with someone than alone, even if I didn’t know them.

When they approached, one of the elderly women said to me, “They are beautiful, aren’t they? Are they little roses?”

I said, “I have no idea.”

She laughed and said, “You don’t know what they are, you just thought they were pretty.” And I agreed because it was true. They WERE pretty. And I was here to take pictures of pretty flowers.

I followed them in, though I walked slower than they did because I was looking around so much for beautiful shots. A girl—probably about eleven years old—was the next to talk to me, saying something about them having fish. I said I didn’t know there were fish, and she told me where they were, and I said “Cool,” because fish are pretty weird creatures. I wondered if I should ask her to show me where they were. I probably should have.

Then my acquaintance’s brother passed by me and asked if I was looking for his brother (my acquaintance), which shocked me because I had only really been around this guy once and he remembered that I was a friend of his brother’s. I said no, I was just wandering. And then I was approached by my inviter, who greeted me warmly with a touch.

This was all fascinating to me. Four people spoke to me before I even reached the backyard. And all of them were friendly. Everyone there was friendly, even if they didn’t stop to have a conversation with me. They acknowledged my presence and said kind words to me. This perplexes me beyond what I can say. They didn’t ignore me. I thought I had to EARN their attention. I have to earn it everywhere else.

The thing I like most about this place was that it literally feels like home. I’ve been there only three times, and yet it has always felt comfortable to me. You know how when you go to a friend’s house and you feel sort of out of place and kind of uneasy, because you don’t know what the rules are? Then when I go to my grandma’s, it’s like home away from home because I know where everything is and how everything works. This place feels exactly like that to me—a home away from home. I felt comfortable lying in the grass (which I haven’t done even at friends’ houses that I’ve been to a hundred times). And I realized, this is how Heaven must feel. When we get there, it’ll just feel like home.

I stayed longer than I should have, I know. Leaving has never been one of my strong points, because I don’t know how to do it. What do you say? At what point is your welcome officially overstayed? I know now that mine definitely was. I helped them carry a few things back to their house, and then I had to watch a little baseball because it’s my favorite sport to watch and we don’t have TV at my house. And the family—their guests all gone besides me—started acting like a family.

It was like I wasn’t there. I got to see what they were really like around each other, and it was endlessly fascinating. They were like…well, a family. They talked to each other and helped each other and went outside. My family isn’t very talkative, and we really don’t interact with each other much. We don’t share jokes or stories about our day. My dad has to ask us during dinnertime what happened today, or what we’re doing over the weekend, but we never say anything because the response is always “Nothing.” And we do things ourselves, unless they absolutely can’t be done alone. We stay out of each other’s way and do our own thing, and don’t intrude on the others’ things. We don’t play together or mess around with each other like other families apparently do. And my brother doesn’t even go outside except to go to school. I would have been jealous of it, except I was so in awe that I couldn’t feel anything else. My acquaintance could hang ropes from places and dig a freaking crater in the corner of the backyard, and nobody questioned him, whereas I’m questioned for drying dandelions, bringing a baseball to church, and cleaning my knives. I don’t ask questions anymore because they are often odd enough that I just end up getting laughed at (and I know my family doesn’t mean it in a mean way. I’m just curious about things they find funny, I guess).

I didn’t know families were really like that. I’ve seen it in books, but I figured it was just a story, like the magic that so often shows up. But this was a very real form of magic, and I got lost in enchantment. I could barely force myself to declare my leaving.

And then, when I said that I was going, my inviter (a.k.a. my acquaintance’s mother) actually HUGGED me. And it wasn’t awkward or weird like all the other hugs are that I’ve received from non-family (and sometimes even family). It felt GOOD. I didn’t want it to stop. I needed that hug. And she walked me to the door, and said “See you later.” Those three words may have meant nothing to her, or next to nothing, but they meant eternity to me.

I AM WELCOME TO GO BACK.

Days later, I’m still in awe of what I felt there. The whole place was not only visibly beautiful, but it was also beautiful underneath where you can’t see. I could feel love and care. It literally felt like birdsong in the spring, warm blankets on a chilly Saturday morning, ice-cold lemonade on a warm summer evening, a sunset on the beach, and the smell of a baseball (which means good fun, good friends, and good times). I felt like I belonged. I felt safe, in a way I’ve never felt safe before.

I wish I could go back and just curl up and stay there. I wish they could feel what I feel when I’m there. There is no other way I can describe it: this must have been a glimpse of Heaven.

And to think: to them, it’s just home.

my heaven on earth

my heaven on earth

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