Another saint has received her “just rewards”. First Lady Barbara Bush has joined Billy Graham and others in transitioning from life to eternal life. I’ve always admired Mrs. Bush. Her strength and determination, shown as she supported her husband and sons in their political goals, walked through trials including the loss of a baby daughter, her faith and humor made her one of the more admired First Ladies. And her authenticity–her ability to laugh at herself, to tease about her wrinkles, to wear her three-strand fake pearl necklace (were it another First Lady I’d probably need to say her “faux” pearls!), her care for literacy, her blunt straightforwardness and disdain for frippery … all stood out as very real.
According to the Detroit Free Press, when Jeb Bush asked his mom recently how she felt about dying, she didn’t miss a beat. “She said, ‘Jeb, I believe in Jesus and he is my savior. I don’t want to leave your dad, but I know I will be in a beautiful place.’”
Amazingly, what we speak of as “just rewards” in fact has nothing to do with our good deeds, our efforts to help others, our personal integrity, our character. It has everything to do with our trust in Jesus Christ’s payment for our sin. The thief on the cross next to him recognized Jesus had done nothing deserving of the horrible, agonizing death they were experiencing. The thief put his trust in Jesus right there, as he was dying, and Jesus promised that, that day the thief would be with HIm in Paradise.
Some of the “worst” people, according to our definitions, will be in heaven. The Apostle Paul, who killed and imprisoned Christians until he himself met Jesus on the road to Damascus and began to serve those he had persecuted. Charles “Chuck” Colson, who others said would have run over his grandmother to achieve his political goals, until he came face to face with the real Jesus, who changed Colson from the inside out, making him a champion for prisoners who needed to hear the good news that they could be forgiven, free of the eternal weight of sin and its consequences.
Paul and Colson would both be the first to say they are forgiven only because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. God’s great and abiding love for the world, Jesus’ obedience in going to the Cross to pay the penalty for my sins and yours, freed us. So when I face Jesus at my death, I won’t be there because I’ve been a “good person”, or helped others along the way. It also won’t be prevented because I’ve dealt with jealousy, pride, anger, sinful thoughts and unkind actions. If God asks me, “Why should I let you into my heaven?” my answer is simple: “Only because Jesus took the penalty for me, and I trust Him.”
Don and I saw the movie “I Can Only Imagine” last week. My nephew Drew sang that at my father’s memorial sixteen years ago. I’d not heard the song before, but the words struck me powerfully.
“I can only imagine
What my eyes would see
When your face is before me
I can only imagine
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
To my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah
Will I be able to speak at all
I can only imagine …”
So, while my heart goes out to President George H.W. Bush and to the Bush family in the loss of this dynamic and authentic woman and I pray for their comfort, I also rejoice knowing that, because of Jesus, Barbara Bush is more alive than she has ever been and is in the presence of her Savior.
Welcome Home, Barbara!
If you’d like to know more about how you can know Jesus personally, I’d love to hear from you.