Today I held the hand of a man standing on the brink of eternity. He was facing a life-saving operation that he thought he might not survive. In the face of this challenge he was tender – and just a little afraid, though more for his loved ones than for himself. As we prayed I felt like I was standing on Jacob’s ladder – the heavens opened and there was movement in the air. Peace descended and in that moment he knew that he was loved and accepted. Fear left and hope sprang.
I have not often felt myself on that ladder that crosses the portal between heaven and earth, though I might have stood there more often than I have realised. When you become aware of it, it has an uncanny knack of focusing your thoughts – a little bit like the chain ladder that ascends to the Amphitheatre in the Drakensberg mountains. You try hard to concentrate on your hands and feet and not look down. There’s a stiff wind blowing that chases away all the pettier thoughts of life – like the silly argument we had in the car on the way to the hospital. It’s scary but exhilarating – because you step up into another world, where everything looks different. When you have been there once – you want to go back, even if there’s effort and sacrifice involved.
I have met people who seem able to live in the Presence ninety per cent of the time – but I have to confess that I am not one of them. When all around are laughing and shaking and falling I usually feel nothing tangible. It’s not that I’m un-joyful – I am quite capable of laughing and shouting and dancing and being exuberant all by myself (is that why I don’t succumb to involuntary passion?) But occasionally I get unbidden glimpses of a spirit realm that is more real than the flesh and blood around me: like those automatic doors that only open when you step into them. In those moments I see that small steps can shift the huge weights that block our entrance into a realm of light and joy and peace and unlimited favour and power. And I want to go there. Don’t you?