I was sitting at the table at Church Retreat a few weekends ago.. Linda was in her wheelchair pulled up at an angle in front of me. Her bib tied around her neck, her sightless eyes in a frown, her little mouth opening automatically as I spooned her turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy and green beans into it. It was such a good lunch! Around me the church family that I love started to clear tables and clean up the weekend mess, while some still visited at the tables, lingering over dessert.
I looked across at all these dear people, and back at my BL, who was complaining about everything this morning. I willed myself to smile at her because I do not want my face to be a reflection of hers, and I spoke quietly to her, trying to soothe out the grumpiness that often causes people to keep their distance. (“Why can’t she just be nice, Heavenly Father? Sometimes I don’t feel like she’s even trying!”)
I thought again about what it would be like to be her. 70 years old. Blind. Non-verbal. Autistic. Breast Cancer. Colon Cancer. And a host of other problems that can cause discomfort. And this morning, she had been hauled out of her bed, dressed, fed, and drug off to Church Retreat, to a big noisy room with a lot of unfamiliar voices. She didn’t have her beloved recliner to sit in. There was an inviting fire in the huge fireplace, and she was beside it, but even the crackling of the fire seemed to disturb her. It was a damp, cold morning and nothing was quite right. I looked at her troubled face and knew that, once again, I had no idea what she wanted or what would make her happy.
I was sad that morning. A host of other things were on my mind, and disappointment was thick in my throat. I was distressed over the disappearance of Donna Miller, and felt sick in my stomach with the futility of her family’s desperate searching. I was weary from the busy days of the week before and concerned about my two youngest grandbabies – both of whom were ill. We were expecting out of state company in the afternoon, and I was scheming as to how I would ever get a Certain Man shook loose in time to get home before they got there. My head and my heart were full of so many things, my hands on automatic, filling the spoon, putting food into Linda’s mouth, waiting for her to swallow, filling the spoon, putting food into Linda’s mouth . . .
And then she walked by. Tall and slender, every hair in place, clothes impeccably neat and tastefully coordinated. She smiled at me as I sat in my chair, and then hesitated. “I’m telling you what, Mary Ann,” she said. “You are going to have stars in your crown. You are going to have so many stars in that crown that you won’t even be able to lift it onto your head!”
I felt a familiar lurch in my stomach. Those “flitting through my head a thousand tidbits a minute” thoughts about what things are really like in my heart compared to what shows. I thought about what she said and I thought about what it says in Revelation about laying crowns at the feet of Jesus, and how I’m pretty sure that I won’t be lifting my own crown onto my head. And then I thought about casting my crown at His Feet, and my heart was suddenly on Holy Ground.
“It will all go back to HIM,” I said softly, almost to myself.
She looked uncomfortable. “What?” she asked.
“It will all go back to HIM,” I said with a little more confidence. “The crowns will all be put at Jesus’ feet.”
“Yes, Yes,” she said, also a bit reflectively. “That’s true! They will!” And she went gracefully on.
But her words had been stamped on my heart, and have been the cause of some reflection and thought.
Stars? Jewels? Crowns? I haven’t really thought much about rewards or setting them anywhere. A crown, particularly a heavy one, seems awkward and hampering. What are crowns a symbol of? “Why a crown, Lord Jesus, and for what purpose?”
In our world today, crowns are symbols of many things, but most commonly it denotes authority or intrinsic royalty. Both of which, if I understand the teaching of Jesus, are already mine. So it’s not that I’m going to “get one” but rather that I already have one. And whether there are stars or jewels in that crown as a direct result of what I’ve done and haven’t done is not something that I thought very much about or particularly care about . . .
Except in one context. When that day comes and it’s time for us to lay at those crowns at the feet of the one who deserves our worship, then I want it to be precious in His eyes; literally the best that I can bring to the feet of The One who has given so very much for me.
Lord Jesus, May it be so!