I can only imagine
What it will be like
When I walk
By your side.
I can only imagine
What my eyes will see
When your face
Is before me.
I can only imagine.
Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel?
Will I dance for you Jesus or in awe of you be still?
Will I stand in your presence or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all?
I can only imagine.
Our Abu Dhabi congregation was singing this song when we arrived for worship this week. The words grabbed at me.
“Is that true?” I wondered. “Can we ‘only imagine’ what it is to be in the Presence of Jesus?”
For the Bible tells us that we who believe Him are indwelt NOW by His Spirit, that together we are His body, Jesus in this world. That wherever two or three gather He is there, right there, PRESENT in our midst.
I now know that Millard’s words are about the death of his father, the heart-cry of an 18-year-old who longed to understand what is so great about God that his dad would rather be in Heaven that on earth with him. A different spin, and a meaningful one. But that morning in church my thoughts went to John and what he wrote in Revelation 1.
“On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet…. I turned around to see the voice that was speaking….” And John beheld Jesus in heavenly glory. “His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said; ‘Do not be afraid.’”
John, exiled for his faith, maybe 90 years old, is worshipping on the Lord’s Day. Whatever “in the Spirit” means exactly, we know that John was consciously aware of God’s presence, actively watching and listening. He didn’t need to “only imagine.” But the surprise! Suddenly the veil between heaven and earth disappeared and he glimpsed Jesus in heavenly glory! John’s reaction? This one who once leaned on Jesus at that last meal together? He fell at Jesus’ feet in stark terror. So awed to behold utter purity and brilliance, and to know himself undeserving.
Then Jesus touched him with gracious love. What did John do next? He listened—carefully. And he did what Jesus told him to do. Am I alert to Jesus in a posture of listening dependence that amounts to consciously living in His Present Spirit in me and in my brothers and sisters? So that I hear Him in whatever surprising way He chooses to touch me? How about the doing? Jesus said, “Write!” and John wrote. Today, at this moment, am I doing what Jesus has told me to do—whether general or specific?
My mind meandered on to another story of human response to Jesus’ tangible presence. “Then the little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them. Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’” Matthew 19: 13-15. And they watched Jesus place on those small ones the same hands he would later lay on John. Oh, glorious touch of acceptance, blessing and compassion.
But think about it! There they were, with Jesus physically tangible in human body. “I can only imagine” that I would dance and swoon and give Him full attention! But watch these committed followers. They see the small ones, and their human culture tells them that Jesus is too important to give his time and attention to these. (And they are, too!) They shoo them away. They aren’t even kind about it. Ask Jesus what He wants? It does not occur to them. With Jesus right there, they cavalierly move to marginalize people He longs to bless!
Ouch! Before I move into action on Jesus’ behalf, do I ask Him what He wants me to do? Who are the small ones that cross my path? How is my welcome? Where are my hands? Oh, that’s right! They are His hands, for we who belong to Him are His living hands and feet in this world today!
Lord, the realm of imagination allows me to presume easy, exuberant awe and faithfulness. Here in the “real world,” well, it is not quite like that. Lord, change imagination to desire, desire to freedom to choose faithfulness, and faithfulness to tangible action. Amen!