But we are citizens of heaven and are eagerly waiting for our Savior to come from there. Our Lord Jesus Christ has power over everything, and he will make these poor bodies of ours like his own glorious body. Philippians 3:20-21(CEV)

The last time I saw Gus (not his real name) he was 104 years old. An old Norwegian Presbyterian he grew up farming in the fertile fields of Northern Iowa. He’d done well for himself and his sons had built on his legacy with sound farming and reliance on their faith. Gus was as generous with the money the ‘Good Lord’ had given him as he was his big smile and firm handshake.

I visited Gus that last time since I was back in town for the funeral of a mutual friend. She’d spent her last years in a room just down the hall from Gus and his wife in the local rest home. Gus shared his room with his wife of 75 years who, due to Alzheimer’s disease, rarely acknowledged his existence.

I unknowingly arrived just in time for the afternoon hymn sing and sat in the back of the room to listen. Midway through the singing the leader turned to Gus and said “Gus, would you sing your favorite song for us?” He smiled and nodded. She began to play “He the Pearly Gates will Open.” 104 years hadn’t weakened the beautiful Norwegian brogue as he sang all four verses from memory and didn’t miss a word (I don’t think).

Afterwards, I went up to greet Gus. His smile told me he recognized me long before I got to his wheelchair. We sat together and shared a cup of strong coffee. We talked of old times. Gus always talked about old times, the time on the farm, the way life had changed. How some of his most lucrative deals had been done with nothing more than a handshake. That’s all that was needed in those days.

Then Gus began to weep as we talked of the passing of our friend. I asked if he was okay and after he gained his composure he said, “All my friends are gone. I just want to go home.” I knew right away that home wasn’t the few blocks to the comfortable bungalow he and his bride had retired to. Home was to see his Jesus. It was at that point that I realized that home is where your family is, home is where your loved ones are and you feel completely accepted. Home is where Jesus is.

Three years later I heard that the Pearly Gates had swung wide open for Gus. He was home at last. Each of us long to live to be old, but as we grow older our bodies fail, our mind doesn’t work the way we’d like, those we love go on before us. But on the other side, when we go through those gates to see Jesus we’ll be transformed, made new. The physical and emotional pain we are going through now is nothing compared to the glory we’ll share when we enter “The Pearly Gates.”

PRAYER: Lord Jesus. We continue to struggle with life on this side. Thank you for the hope we have of a better life after this. Empower me to live fully for you here in anxious anticipation for lies ahead. Amen.

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