As I was running this morning, listening to a Misty Edwards’ worship album (music that always creates a thin place for me between heaven and earth), I began to pray for Renee Boutan’s family.
Reflecting on her father preaching, standing high above us, within the sacred walls of St. Philip’s, I saw that he was there in a similar thin place, his deep grief and sorrow pulling him down to the earthbound gathering below – we who strangely hold on to this fleeting, temporal domain, when the invisible, eternal realm is the greater reality – while the Word and the Spirit drew him to that place of incomprehensible joy, love and peace.
Suddenly my running route fades from my sight, and I glimpse through the veil to Heaven’s Throne Room. Renee is standing before the throne dressed in a simple, elegant wedding gown, her head bowed, and her face covered with a lovely, laced veil.
Jesus is sitting on His throne, but as he gazes upon Renee, he rises and makes his way down golden steps, until he is standing before her. He gently raises her head, lifts the veil, kisses her on the forehead and says, “Welcome my daughter, my sister, my bride. You are altogether beautiful, my darling, and there is no blemish in you.”
Renee, glowing with a joy and beauty unknown in the shadowlands, gazes into His eyes and simply replies, “I am my beloved’s and you are mine. Your banner over me is love.”
Jesus turns to the heavenly throng, a number that no man can number of every nation, tribe and tongue, “Welcome my love, Renee, to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” At that moment comes a roar, the sound of many waters, as all of heaven welcomes the lovely, fair princess.
The Lord then looks down, and there, through the thin place, stands Renee’s father, mid-sermon. Jesus, now the officiant, asks, “Who gives this bride to be married?”
Marc’s spirit replies, “Her mother and I do.” All the while, his message, his stories, his reflections roll over us, like the father of the bride handing his daughter to another.
Once again Jesus addresses him, “There is no grief so deep that I am not deeper still. Go now; draw from my well of love, joy and peace. Comfort your wife, your family, and my people, and remind them that I am coming soon.
“You have spoken wisely in calling all to not speak of Renee in the past tense, for she is ever with me, full of my life and glory. The brevity of her earthly visitation is forever a picture of how short the time is for all who await my advent.”
The scene shifts, while my feet pound the asphalt and Misty Edwards sings, “Because life, life is a vapor; but the brevity is what makes it a treasure. So feel it all like a love letter to the One you will live with forever. His eye is on the sparrow; His eye is on you.” And I remember the last time I saw Renee that wasn’t in a hospital room.
Several weeks before her passing, I had gone out to the farm to pray with her and her mother, Trish. Renee, fighting for life with the pallor of death on her face, was planting a flower in the middle of the pasture.
Recalling that moment, I now see Renee walking hand in hand with Jesus in a glorious field of flowers, the variety and beauty beyond any breathless vista of southern France. In place of the veil, a wreath of lavender now crowns Renee’s long, flowing hair, and both are barefoot.
She looks up into Jesus’s face and softly says, “When?”
The one who knows all things knows that she means, “When are you returning? When is the consummation of the ages? When is our family reunion? When will all be made whole? When is the final, great wedding?”
He looks at her with delight, smiles and replies, “Soon, my daughter, my sister, my fair one. Soon.”
Several days later, again running and praying, this time with Kari Jobe playing on my iPod, I begin to pray specifically for Renee’s older brother, who had, the night before, posted a brief word of sorrow on Facebook.
“Lord, how do I pray for Christian? Do you have a word for him?” Instantly my mind and spirit slipped into vision.
I am back before the Throne in Heaven looking at Renee and Jesus, just as before, but now the scene widens to a panoramic view.
Christian is standing beside Jesus in his new suit but no shoes, and his sweet wife is beside Renee, a lovely Matron of Honor, with both of their boys (with silk, ring pillows in hand) clinging to her legs. To Christian’s right, as far as the eye can see, is a line of groomsmen, young men, boys and old. To Mattie’s left is a similar line of maids of honor, young women and little girls. The mother of the bride is just behind them in front of the heavenly host.
Jesus looks at Christian and addresses him, “Renee is safe and whole, forever in my care. You have loved her well. You are a worthy best man.” Then to Mattie, “Renee has chosen to honor you, my daughter, our sister and friend.”
Before Christian or Mattie could ask, Jesus waves toward the myriad of people lined on both sides. “These young ladies and girls are her countless peers and lives that have been forever touched by your sister’s sacrificial love and contagious faith. The men are worshippers, prophets and preachers (past, present and future) that incessantly bear witness to a life totally devoted to my Gospel and Kingdom, for she has overcome by my blood and the word of her testimony.
“Now go, my son, and live your life not in the shadow of Renee’s death but in the eternal light of her forever life. Love your wife, shepherd your family, raise your sons with my truth and grace, continue to carry her torch of my mercy and love, and be vigilant, for I am coming soon.”
The heavenly throng then shouts, “Hallelujah! Maranatha!