Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen.”
But what if we could see? What if for a few seconds or minutes we could physically see God? It is an ages-old longing! Ever since mankind was banished from His Presence in the Garden of Eden, we have longed for physical proof of His existence.
Moses asked to see God. Isaiah begged God to “rend the heavens” and come to earth. The Psalmist longed to meet God. Anna and Simeon went to the temple courts everyday looking for God.
And Peter, desperate to prolong the magnificence of being in the presence of the glorified Christ, offered to pitch a few tents so they could all camp out!
This longing to see God has been growing inside of me lately.
I know that many people, ancient and current, have had incredible dreams and visions of God. I consume true stories about heavenly visits like the ones in 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper, and Heaven is For Real by Todd Burpo. As I read or hear concrete evidence of the unseen reality of heaven it causes me to long even more for my own vision or for a “glimpse behind the veil.”
Dr. Reggie Anderson, a physician in a small town in Tennessee, has repeatedly experienced what he calls the opening of the veil between heaven and earth. In his book, Appointments with Heaven, he details many accounts of patients who have died, and some who have returned, and the very real sights, sensations and scents that accompany those sacred moments.
His memoir is fascinating for so many reasons. The first is that Dr. Anderson has had some amazing life experiences, like the country doctor version of Bob Goff! But also, he has endured some incredibly traumatic events and honestly reveals his faith struggles through those times. As he writes about the many twists and turns of his faith journey and the graciousness of God through it all, I find myself crying and celebrating.
Crying, because life is really, really hard sometimes. But celebrating because God is so very good! If He gave a God-hating, undeserving, medical student a LIFE-TRANSFORMING dream of heaven, while camping in the hills of Tennessee, wouldn’t He also do that for me?
I had glimpsed heaven.
The veil had parted, allowing me to peer into the other side, and what I saw was a world more colorful and vibrant than the one we live in. It was a world of peace and love, a place where anxiety, fear and worry lines simply vanished. I knew the permanence of that place far outweighed the temporary life we have here.
Although I was humbled by the underserved gift of being able to visit, I longed for the day I could go back. But I also knew it wasn’t yet my appointed time. I had been tasked with things to do here. It’s difficult to articulate all that I felt-an experience like that is beyond words, as it should be. I had seen and heard more in the depths of my soul than I could ever articulate with my tongue.
But this I can say for sure: God is real, and He is good. I had been in His presence, in His home in heaven, and He had spoken into the deepest part of my being.
My only response was to want more of Him. (Appointments with Heaven, p. 85)
I find myself agreeing with this summation of his dream experience whole-heartedly. While I haven’t had a vision of heaven, I have often known and felt the presence of God. And, whenever I sense that I am in His presence, I don’t want it to end. I simply want more of Him, and less of the world.
In one of my earlier blog posts I shared that God had given me the word “perspective” as my One-Word focus for the year. Reading this book has helped hone my perspective. I can more easily-- although not perfectly, understand that every challenge, frustration or problem is TEMPORARY! Waiting on prayers to be answered, on dreams to be realized, or on pain to be healed is bearable because all of these things are taking place in our temporary earth suits. Even the joy of worldly successes will fade; they too are all just a temporary phase, a season of this life that God allows us to experience.
However, my biggest take-away from this beautiful book was that I am looking for God more. Dr. Anderson explains it better:
Some people have asked why I have been privileged to see Jesus and they haven’t. I don’t know the answer to that. I do know that I have kept my eyes open for glimpses of heaven. I’ve said, “Okay, Lord, use me however you want,” no matter how strange or crazy it seemed. As a result, I see evidence of His handiwork everywhere. Of course, being in the medical profession, I often get to see people at the beginning or the end of their lives—the times they are closest to heaven. However, I suspect that if we all slowed down, kept our eyes opened, and listened more attentively, we would frequently recognize heavenly experiences happening all around us. (p. 172)
I have begun to be more aware of His presence in everyday circumstances. Though I wish I could say I am constantly attuned to God, I often fail to represent Him to a watching world. I am undeserving of a dream or a vision or physical manifestation of His presence. But I ask for it, often. And I am asking for it for my family, and friends. I firmly believe this prayer, the one that asks for more of Him, is one He LOVES to answer.
I am also realizing that my growing longing for Him is part of the “proof” of His physical reality.
Let me know if you read Appointments with Heaven! I would love to hear how Dr. Anderson’s story encourages you too! Comment below or on our Facebook page, or just send me an e-mail! CToriscelli@gmail.com