On the Side: January 2022
Laura McLean Thomas
I knew I’d broken it before I hit the ground. I heard it snap. Breathing hard on the concrete, between cries for help, my mind moaned, “not again!”.
9 years ago I broke the same ankle, my right one. It was early Christmas morning and I was sleepily walking down the stairs to get baby Tylenol for my teething son. One wrong step and down I went. This time it was December 23rd. I think next year my family may cocoon me in bubble wrap and prop me up in the corner until New Year’s.
So now, suddenly, I have a lot of free time while I wait around for my ankle to heal. But I am not good at waiting. And everything I do try to accomplish takes so much more time and energy! The days feel so hard.
I am very aware of a choice each morning as I wake up and grab my crutches. (And a rendition of Sound of Silence plays in my head: “hello crutches my old friends, I’ve come to walk with you again…”). What is my attitude going to be today?
Kept in perspective, a broken ankle isn’t that big a deal. Thankfully, it is a temporary problem. I know that as long as I take care of myself I will be up and walking in a couple months. But keeping this perspective can be hard because my “right now” is so frustrating (did I mention that my refrigerator just stopped working too?).
This world is broken. And much worse than my ankle. We are faced with sickness, death, fear, frustration, heartache… on a daily basis. These past two COVID years have presented even more challenges. Sometimes it seems like the world has just plain gone crazy.
Each morning, we all have a choice: we can focus on the hardships of this life or have an eternal perspective. Like my broken ankle, our hardships all have an end date. Our “right now” may be a complete mess. But thankfully, because of our faith in Jesus, we can be assured that our forever is going to be amazing.
I have to admit, I never used to think about heaven very much. It seemed very far off, and there was so much to occupy my time and energy. But when my Dad passed away in 2020, it suddenly seemed so much more real and near.
It is real. It is near. Someday, whether it is when the trumpet sounds to bring us all home or when Jesus just calls you home, you will be unfettered from the cares of this world. Every pain, every worry will be left behind.
On his last night of freedom Jesus comforted his best friends with these words, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and I will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:1-3 ESV)
Jesus knew the heartache and despair that his disciples would face in the days to follow. He also knew the immense pain he would endure in the final step for our redemption. What did he want his companions to remember as they faced these trials? The promise of Heaven. Jesus knew the vast glory that waited for him on the other side of the cross, and that his suffering would unlock that glory for his loved ones as well. As Paul writes “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Colossians 1:13 ESV).
In 2nd Corinthians, Paul talks about being “caught up” or given a vision of heaven 14 years before writing that letter. He writes that “I was caught up to paradise and heard things so astounding that they cannot be expressed in words, things no human is allowed to tell” (2 Cor 12:4 NLT). Can you imagine? I wonder if that awe-filling vision is what gave Paul the strength he needed to endure prison, whippings, beatings, at least one stoning, three shipwrecks, a night in the open sea, dangers and threats all around him, hunger, thirst, pain and weariness. (2 Cor 11:24-28). He had seen what Jesus had prepared for us. Keeping himself focused on his future in heaven he was able to say, “For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!” (2 Cor 4:17 NLT).
Our every day hassles, and even the heavy heartaches we carry are temporary. The long days of “holding down the fort” while our doctor husbands are working, the pain and frustration of sickness, masks and vaccines, and canceled trips and get-togethers, even our separation from loved ones who have passed, will not last forever.
The same way the memory of delayed flights or bumper-to-bumper traffic on our way home at Christmas dissolves when we’re sitting down to a delicious dinner with our loved ones, this world and all its pain will fade away when we’re at home in Heaven with the Lord. As David writes “In [His] presence there is fullness of joy; at [His] right hand are pleasures forever more” (Psalm 16:11 ESV).
So, as I crutch my way through these next “6-8 weeks” I am going to try to listen to my own advice. This is temporary. My brokenness is temporary. This broken everything is temporary. But Heaven? Heaven is forever. And if I can remember that, it will give me the strength to get through not only a broken ankle, but a broken world.
Wishing you all a blessed 2022 filled with God’s love and a heart set on heaven!
Laura lives in Palm Desert, CA with her pulmonary/ICU husband, three kids, and one very spoiled dog. She highly recommends “Imagine Heaven” by John Burke and the One Year Bible for anyone looking for good reads this year.