Amtrak taught me an important lesson about eternity.
Have you ever wondered what that moment in time will be like when you step over the line that divides earth and eternity?
For those who have put their faith in Christ, it might be something like this.
When my Uncle Ron passed on to his heavenly home, I found out Amtrak was the best way to travel from Illinois to rural southwest Kansas. Amtrak had a direct line between Galesburg, Illinois and Lamar, Colorado which was only two hours from my aunt’s home – a lot closer than if I tried to fly into Denver or Amarillo. Both the outbound and inbound trips left in the evening, traveled overnight, and arrived during the morning hours. My sweet husband, knowing my need to be refreshed when I arrived and when I came home, encouraged me to pay the extra money for the sleeper compartment that much to our surprise and delight, came with meals, nice meals.
The trip to Kansas was great. My car attendant told me dinner would be served at 7:15 and I joined two very gracious ladies at a table where we enjoyed a wide-ranging conversation. With the help of a Tylenol PM and ear buds, I slept six hours then enjoyed a delightful breakfast with two other travelers. The porter and dining car server were pleasant and helpful, attending to my every need and some of my whims.
Since I was getting on the return train at 9:30 in the evening, I didn’t expect a meal. I would barely have time to get settled in and go to bed. Would the porter even be around if I had any questions? The other attendant had made it clear that I had to have my room made up by 10PM – would someone be there to turn the two chairs into the compartment bed? It was dark. How would I find my way? Could I see to get up the steps? Would this train be laid out differently than the first train? How would I know where my room was or where the dining car was for breakfast the next morning?
I stood on the Lamar platform, gazing at the oncoming train. A wave of weariness hit me. It had been an intense weekend. I had participated in the memorial service, then spoke at my uncle’s church the next morning. The other hours had been filled with visiting family and grieving together. I felt like I had nothing left to give anyone. Already I was missing my family but anxious for my own home. I was afraid I would cry in front of the train attendant. All the weariness and intensity of my frenetic pace over the last few weeks pressed upon me. I was too tired and distraught to think clearly about much of anything.
The train slowed and pulled to a stop in front of me. A door opened and a figure filled the doorway.
“Yes, that’s me.” He knew my name.
“This way, please.” He took my suitcase. “Your room is ready for you. Have you had dinner yet? I’ll stow your luggage and you head upstairs.”
I balked. I had already eaten supper with my cousins. When I told him I had already had a bite, he looked disappointed. “The dining car has your dinner waiting for you.”
“Dinner would be nice.” How could I refuse?
“Up the steps and to your right.” He stowed my luggage and repeated his words. “They are waiting for you.”
I found my room, slung my coat on the bed already made with plumped pillow and turned back sheets. Then I turned around and headed toward the dining car. As I entered two staff members stood.
“We’ve been waiting for you.”
Wow! They treated me like I was someone really important. It didn’t stop. Trying to eat something in spite of my very full tummy, I asked for a salad.
“Would you like hot rolls with that? Do you want croutons? What kind of dressing? How about dessert?” The server kept calling me “Honey” “Ma’am” and “Madam.” When I asked for hot tea, she brought out an array of herbal teas arranged attractively on a place. I couldn’t eat jelly but did she have any honey? Several packets quickly appeared on another plate.
I felt totally cared for. I felt like someone really important and special. I think they would have done almost anything I asked. They anticipated my coming and had planned and prepared for what I would need. They were ready, waiting to welcome me and bring me home.
That must be what Heaven will be like. I can imagine Uncle Ron crossing the threshold between heaven and earth. The portals opened and a heavenly voice calls out, “Mr. Wilson? Your room is ready for you. This way, please. We’ve been waiting for you.”
“In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would not have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” – John 14:2,3.
“And so we will be with the Lord forever.” – 1 Thessalonians 4:17b
Heaven won’t be like moving to a new city where activity is going on as usual and we just merge into the flow of eternal life already in full throttle. Jesus won’t just look over at us and say, “Oh here’s another one. Hi. Welcome to the party.” Then eternal life goes as usual. Neither will our needs and whims be courteously met because an employee got paid to be nice to us. Jesus knows we’re coming. Like an awesome host, He is making preparations for our arrival. Better than any railroad porter or dining car server, he’s downright excited that we’re on the guest list.
As we stand on the platform of our final moments and watch the light of Heaven draw ever closer, Jesus and those who gone before us watch from the other side, eagerly pointing at us. “There he is!” “She’s finally here!” Jesus will step forward, arms open wide.
“Come on up. Your room is ready.”
“We’ve been waiting for you.”
Are you ready to see Him?