As a fitting conclusion to BLOGGING THROUGH THE BIBLE IN 2013 through THE LAND OF ABUNDANT LIFE, I’m sharing a personal story God gave me in 2000, the year before my parents moved to Heaven. I was staying at their apartment to help care for them, and woke up one morning with this story running through my mind. I share it partly as a tribute to my parents, but more importantly to honor my Jesus.
MY JOURNEY HOME . . . Fifty-0ne years ago, I began my perilous journey to the Celestial City. The day was bitterly cold, typical for late January in Minnesota. My dad was at the wheel of our dependable blue Dodge. My mother tenderly cradled me in her arms and sang lullabies with a voice that rivaled the deep-throated tones of a nightingale. With my mother at his side, my father capably guided the comfortable vehicle with its precious cargo along the thrilling—though often treacherous—highway of life. We enjoyed traveling together. Our ride was pleasant, full of laughter and shared adventures. The route my dad chose was scenic. From my secure vantage seat, I observed and pondered all the hills and valleys along the highway of life.
My journey started in a quiet, remote country area dotted with farms. I remember one particular farm near a little creek where my dad parked our trusty automobile for a time and we fished for sunnies and roamed in the green rolling hills. When we stayed overnight there, I’d fall asleep cuddled between my parents, listening to the rhythmic chirp of crickets in the near-by woods. A bevy of kittens entertained me, and a big, furry dog climbed into the back seat with me as we journeyed on. Later we spent a great deal of time near a gorgeous lake. My dad built a sturdy rest stop here to house us on our frequent visits. I loved the lake. How grateful I was to my parents for letting me spend so much time in the warm, placid waters that enveloped my spirit and made it soar.
Somewhere along the way, my parents taught me how to read a road map and introduced me to the One who constructed our vehicle and all the other vehicles on the road. He even created the vast highway system. Not only that, but He also formed the whole spectrum of scenery I viewed day by day, and even more beyond my sight. My parents told me that this great Master Designer wanted to get to know me personally. If I would place my life in His hands, He would take care of me. As I faithfully studied the road map they gave me and talked with Him day and night, He would guide me safely along the road to our destination, the Celestial City of God!
Then they told me a secret. My dad and mom had turned the controls of our car over to Him and He was in charge of our journey. Wow! Now I had a new person to acknowledge in my life . . . the most special Person of all. I could tell my parents knew Him well, because they said He was Love personified, and they reflected His image onto my life.
I was even more thankful that they had introduced Him to me when the time came for me to take over the wheel myself. One day at the familiar, cozy lake , they sat me down and told me it was time for me time to journey on alone. At first, I hesitated. But after many tears and hugs and repeated instructions, I climbed in at the wheel of my own red Ford and started out. At first I thought I was alone, but soon a murmur in the back seat cause me to glance with apprehension to see who was there. I should have known. It was my friend, Jesus. I relaxed a little as he took over the navigation, gently advising me when and where to turn. He pointed out spectacular views I would have missed had He not been with me, and warned me of pitfalls along the way. Sometimes, I got stubborn and chose to try my own route. Then I’d end up in a bog of quicksand or a heap of rubble. Time after time, He patiently came to my aid, hauled me out and set my wheels on firm pavement again. Little by little, I learned to trust that His way was better than mine.
Often I stopped by to visit my parents, who were contentedly settled by the serene little lake. At rest stops, I began to pick up others who needed to journey along with me to the City. We rode and chatted comfortably for time before I let them off to go their own way. At one of these stops, God gave me a family to share the ride: a husband and two precious children . . . a china-doll girl and a teddy-bear boy. I tucked the children securely in their seat belts in the back of the car and turned over the wheel to my husband.
The day began with clear, blue skies and toasty warm sunshine. But, about noon, tragedy struck. An enormous semi came hurling out of nowhere and hit us full force. My children and I survived, but I lost my husband.
We spent some time in a hospital by the crossroads. Eventually, I gathered my children in my arms and placed them with me in a rusty, old green Pinto. We journeyed on alone for a time; I was very tired and worn. With my vision clouded by tears, I would have lost my way entirely had not Jesus stayed with us. Sometimes when I got drowsy and began to nod off, Jesus would take the wheel and drive so I could safely rest. At other times, He’d sit in the back seat between my children, putting His arms around them both, holding them close.
Eventually, I regained some strength and we began to stop for pleasant intervals. We’d play in the park or take a bike ride to the Dairy Queen for ice cream cones. We stopped often to see Grandpa and Grandma where we splashed in the sparkling waters of my childhood lake.
A surprise awaited me at one of the rest stops. A new man joined our little party and took over the wheel. Contentedly, I moved to the passenger side where I could better focus on my children again. One day, we noticed a precious baby boy in the back seat, snuggled in between my daughter and son. We all excitedly welcomed him into our family! We sang songs and played games. We moved into a big Ford truck with a camper named “Honeyboose” and traveled throughout the whole country and beyond.
Life was grand for a time. Then storm clouds rose on the horizon and hovered close. The roads became treacherous. Periods of sunshine were interspersed with the gloom of night. Life with all of it’s showers and thunderstorms poured down on us. Pressured by a full gamut of emotions, I vacillated between pinnacles of joy and depths of despair. Our sturdy truck turned into a fragile vehicle that barely clung to the road. It threatened to spin into a ditch many times, but Jesus stretched out His arms to prevent disaster and guided it safely back to a steady course.
Somewhere along the way, we traded in the truck for a bus, a huge one that was capable of holding all the special people that wanted to journey with us and Jesus to the Celestial City.
My children grew up. My daughter fell in love with a dear man who also knew Jesus. He climbed on first, and was followed by a host of friends. No matter how full the load got, Jesus continued to guide and lead us onward.
One day when we stopped to visit my parents, they decided to join us. They were tired and time was making them feeble. We wrapped our arms around them and cleared a special place for them in our bus, close to me so I could help and comfort them.
I have come a long way on my journey home to the Celestial City of God. I don’t know how long the road ahead stretches or where it will lead. But I know Jesus has it mapped out for me. Maybe I will be the first one of my close-knit group to arrive. Most likely I will have to drop off some loved ones first.
My daughter and son-in-law now have a vehicle of their own and spend more time traveling alone. Of course, we always plan to meet at rest stops along the route. My oldest son took a brief jaunt alone. He’ll be back on the bus soon, but I’ve noticed him wandering around at show rooms, looking over the new model cars. I hope he’ll always stay close.
My youngest son is still comfortable in his seat by the window on our bus, but he gets off to stretch his legs more and I know he will soon want to shop for a vehicle of his own.
My parents haven’t confided in me yet, but I sense they expect to arrive at the celestial city ahead of me. My father promised to help God build my mansion, and my mother said she’d save me a seat in the heavenly choir.
My husband and I expect to continue on our journey together, though I know there’s a chance I will have to drop him off at the gates of the City and continue on, driving solo as the end of the road nears. I would miss him terribly, but I’ll never be alone. Jesus promised that He will never leave me nor forsake me, and He always keeps His promises.
We have made plans, my family and friends and me. Whoever gets to the City first will be watching for the others. One radiant morning, we will all park our vehicles at the Eastern Gate and stroll together with Jesus along the golden pavement to the wedding feast, the glorious feast of the Lamb.
EPILOG: Fourteen years after writing “My Journey Home,” I happily report that our family caravan has added two sweet daughter-in-laws and three treasured grandchildren . . . two life-loving boys and a beautiful baby girl. My parents now reside in Heaven with Jesus and I look forward to the timeless Time when we will all happily live together . . . forever.
copyright 2014 Linda Ruth Stai, author and inspiration speaker. All rights reserved.