I've had a picture running through my mind today since learning about the death of infamous "pastor" Fred Phelps. It is a picture of Mr. Phelps reaching heaven after breathing his last breath on this earth and being embraced by Jesus....I keep picturing Jesus embracing him with all of the love that he has for ALL of us and whispering in Mr. Phelps ear, "I love you no matter what...no matter what you did, no matter what you didn't do...I love you."
There is a twist to the picture though and here is where my conjecture really comes in, but let's face it, none of us really knows how it all works. I picture as Jesus is whispering in Mr. Phelps' ear, somehow, supernaturally, Mr. Phelps is able to feel, experience, understand all it was that God actually had in mind for him in this life - he is met with all the love, but also all of the knowledge and understanding of "what could have been"....the people he could have loved and instead shunned....the people he could have drawn towards Christ instead of barring them from knowing His love....the love that he could have felt in this life instead of the hate he always seemed to be drawn to. And when this happens, I imagine that for just a brief moment in heaven, there is some grief as Mr. Phelps is met with what could have been and what wasn't - just for a moment - before he is completely enveloped in the love that he so strongly denied others while he was alive. Maybe that's his judgement - knowing - knowledge of what he could have done to help others experience that love and having a moment to grieve that with Jesus. Please don't call me a heretic, well, go ahead, I don't really care if you want to know the truth...:)
I feel sorry for him and those like him - can you imagine what had to have happened to him in his life to make him turn towards hate so strongly? I have compassion and grace for him, because I need that same compassion and grace too...I'm not a picnic to live with, believe me. I'm grouchy and tired and short tempered and jealous and sad sometimes and I worry a lot and I take those feelings out mostly on my immediate family because I know they HAVE to love me and thank God they do. But, I need grace every day from God and from those around me.
I wonder if my meeting with Jesus will be all that different than Mr. Phelps? I hope so. But you know what? I don't know that live every day in the light of all that God really has for me. I have a feeling that when I get there, along with the love and grace there may be some mourning as well. It's not about "shoulds" and "coulds" but I do think it's about making the most of every day and realizing that every encounter that we have with others matters and can be sacred if we let it. Grace is amazing and I believe God applies it liberally and with vigor - but realizing that what we do, how we treat people, how we love in this life matters is important as well. I don't know how it all works, but I hope I'm close with this picture - wouldn't it be amazing to meet a changed, grace-filled Fred Phelps when we all get there? Just imagine the story of Amazing Grace he will be able to tell....