The Magnificent City

[Note: I wrote this many years ago, and very recently a friend asked for a copy. I had thought it was lost, but this friend managed to dig one up. I hope this story blesses you.]

© 1992 Shaunna Howat

There she was finally, in God’s presence, where she had wanted to be for so long. There was no need for sunshine, because all the light they needed radiated from God the Father.

She was clothed in a splendid white gown made of cool, silky rich cloth she had never felt before. Looking about her, she saw that everyone was dressed the same. They all glowed in their garments. Just how she imagined them to look.

She watched them as they stood or sat in small groups, talking, relaxed. They would laugh quietly at something shared intimately, all at ease with one another. Old friends, long departed, now reunited.

She had been told to wait where she was; there would be an Escort meeting her.

How she got to this place she couldn’t exactly remember. Most of the people with whom she had spoken here didn’t really remember their own deaths much either. Or they just didn’t need to talk about it. They had all died, hadn’t they? Nothing remarkable in that.

When she had first arrived, she was given a tour of the Magnificent City. Mansions of precious stones lined streets of gold. Marble, rose quartz, aquamarine, ruby, diamond, emerald—all the beautiful stones on earth, plus more she had never seen before. The mansions were huge, immaculate, with perfect gardens lovingly tended by numerous white-clad individuals.

She entered the Great Palace, an enormous structure the likes of which she remembered seeing before in pictures. The Temple in Jerusalem, she decided, must have looked much like this. Entering the Holy of Holies, the most central room, she looked out upon vast legions of saints like herself, all bowing before the throne of the Most High God. Angels flew up, around, and back, singing “Holy Holy Holy is the Lord God Almighty.” The train of His robe filled the temple.

At the right hand of the Lord God sat His Son, brilliant in glory.

Then she had the chance to do what she had longed to do most of her life: She fell at the Lord’s feet to worship Him face to face. She dropped to her knees on the golden floor, tears of joy streaming down, and marveled at the look of pleasure on His beautiful face.

Countless others worshipped all around, singing joyously with the angels. Strains of music poured forth from a choir of golden voices, an orchestra of unearthly instruments.

“Welcome, my daughter,” He said. To her! “I have been waiting for you. You have a room reserved here. Your name is written in the Book of Life.”

She never tired of being on her knees in that splendid room. It seemed like years went by as she knelt at His feet, listening to Him speak, drinking in His glory. Then she realized that time had no meaning while she drank in the blessings and sang praises to her Lord. She never wanted to leave.

After a while, her Escort took her outside and told her she could return to worship any time she wished. She followed him to a mansion where large golden books lay open on tables. Their leaves shone with a heavenly light and spoke softly to their readers as, wonderingly, they each turned pages to hear more.

Going to a book, she stood amazed to find it speaking to her!

“Welcome, daughter, my chosen one,” it said. “You have been brought to this place because of your undying faith, because I called you and you believed in Me; because you held fast to your faith and I held you in the palm of My hand. You have wondered why so many times—why there was so much suffering in the world, why friends and family were taken from you, why the world is the way it is.”

She turned another illuminated page and listened as it spoke to her.

“Now you may spend time finding out the answers to all you have wondered and more. Understand how the earth was formed by My hand. Watch Jesus as He was brought to life again. Learn the answers to all the questions you have ever asked, to which there seemed to be no answer. Watch, daughter, and listen, to all the glorious, perfect answers. Then you will know.”

Tears of joy, of understanding, of thankfulness flowed, as she read endlessly, watching and learning. She didn’t want to stop. She had spent her years on earth asking, wondering, wishing she knew the answers to all of life’s questions—and here they were for her.

“At this time,” the book said softly, “you wondered why your father was taken from you. And here is the reason.”

And on yet another page she read, “At this time your heart ached because you lost your child in the womb. And here is why.”

The answers were so clear to her! On earth she had held fast to her faith that God, in His infinite wisdom, had reasons for everything that occurred in the world, and that God’s ways would be made clear to her in His time. And here, in her own book, were the answers.

Finally, her heart content with all she had ever wanted to know (and strangely aware that all of life’s mysteries really did not matter much after all, compared to where she stood right now), she was ready to move on.

She was ushered into a Banquet Hall where the others gathered to feast. There she found family and friends who had gone before her. Their appearances were different from what she had remembered, but they were still the same people she had known on earth. And though they were different, they were also the same.

Her earthly father, whom she had not known since she was a child, was the same smiling, tender man she remembered, only he was different. There was a countenance of peace upon him that had not been there. And the suffering body she had known in his last days was transformed to perfect, unageing health and clad in a pure white gown.

What a marvelous time all her friends and family had in the Banquet Room! They had no trouble getting to know each other again, sharing memories and talking about the Glory of the Lord.

She wondered aloud when she could once again sit at her Heavenly Father’s feet and worship Him. They all smiled and nodded knowingly at each other. It was the favorite pastime of all who lived in the Magnificent City. When they were away from Him, they hungered to return.

“You can worship whenever you like. That’s the beauty of this place. We like to worship regularly. We spend our moments in worship and fellowship. There is no measure of time here; all our moments are like grains of sand in a limitless hourglass.”

So her days were spent just as she liked: she walked down golden streets with her loved ones, worshipped the Lord, and marveled at His wondrous works. To worship endlessly at His feet was all they desired. Banquets of beautiful food were set before them, and they broke bread together in fellowship.

Soon she was made aware that others around her had tasks they were delighted to perform. Gardening, singing, playing beautiful instruments, preparing food for others to enjoy. Some escorted new arrivals. As soon as she became aware of these tasks, her Escort appeared beside her.

“Your job is at hand,” said her Escort, whom she had learned to find at her elbow just when she had a question that needed an answer.

“What is my job?”

She was so eager to perform a task for the Father that it seemed impossible she had spent so much time in the Magnificent City not doing anything for Him.

“Do not worry; everyone is expected to spend a large amount of time adjusting before beginning their tasks. Yours is now at hand. It was designed for you because of your deep compassion on earth for the little ones.”

She followed him to a mansion and through doors of precious jewels. They paused in a hallway before an enormous door of pearl.

“Inside awaits your task,” he said with a secretive smile.

She could hear the sound of bubbling laughter coming from the other side of the door. The sound that had always melted her heart: the chortling, breathless belly laughs of her own children and grandchildren. She smiled just remembering their laughter, almost wanting to return to that time.

Her escort pushed open the door and stood back to let her see. The room, bigger than nearly every room she’d seen in this Magnificent City, stretched as far as she could see. It was filled with babies.

Babies of all sizes and colors. Beautiful, happy, chubby babies held in the arms of loving men and women in rocking chairs. Babies crawling after sparkling, tinkling, golden balls on floors as soft as cotton. Babies nursed by mothers who sang heavenly lullabies as their infants drifted off to sleep.

Millions of babies.

“This, too, is reserved for you,” said her Escort. He indicated a baby who crawled up to her, sat unsteadily on her fat little bottom, and lifted her arms up to be held.

Tears flowed down her face as she stooped to pick up the dark-eyed baby. The infant laughed delightedly and clapped her dimpled hands.

“He knows, doesn’t He, just what I love?” She whispered into ringlets of hair at the nape of the baby’s neck.

“Yes,” answered her Escort. “This task was reserved for you and for all who love babies. And for all those who fought and prayed and argued and marched against the scourge of the earth, the devastation that killed millions of babies before they could be born. This room is filled with those babies.

“They need so much love and tenderness, because many were rejected before they took their first breath. They need patience and encouragement, because their earthly parents had no room for them in their busy lives. They need soothing lullabies and soft beds because they knew violence before they could see the light of day.

“Come and go as you wish. Worship whenever you like, and feast with your departed friends and family as often as you want. Your task will always be here waiting for you. These babies will always need you, and there will always be more.”

He turned to go.

“Wait!” She remembered a question that she had not asked before.

He knew the answer before she could form the question.

“The child you lost in your womb is in your arms now.”

She gasped and looked into now-familiar eyes, the same laughing, chocolate-brown eyes as those of her other children.

Her Escort smiled with pleasure as the secret was revealed. How he loved his job!

“Yes, she has been waiting for you. Waiting for you with confidence, for you to hold her and love her, too.”

“But you said this room is full of—”

“All babies who do not have a chance to be born come to this room to wait. All babies.”

He turned to go. “I must return to my tasks.” And he disappeared.

Her time was spent joyously. As she rocked sweet-smelling babies to sleep in the golden room of downy-soft floors and pearled walls, she looked forward to worship. After her hours of adoration at the Father’s feet, she reveled in time spent with family and friends in the Banquet Hall.

Angels who traveled from the City to the earth to bring messages to the faithful, to guard the believers, would return and share their stories. She was surprised that, as it seemed years had gone by for her in her deep enjoyment of the Magnificent City, only a day or two had gone by since she had departed from earth.

Time began to matter even less to her as she immersed herself in long worship sessions, endless family reunions, and armloads of babies who never seemed to get enough cuddling. Her task, her worship, and fellowship kept her busy, just as she loved to be.

One day as she left the Worship Hall, headed for a banquet, her Escort appeared at her elbow.

“You need to know that your dear friend is arriving shortly.”

“She is? How delightful!” Her friend’s face came to mind, a loving memory of one of the dearest friends she had had on earth. She remembered how they had been mothers together, raising their children to know and love the Lord, and wondering if they were doing the right things for their children.

She remembered how they longed to sit together on cold winter days before a fire with hot cups of tea, just to chat, and were never able to because they were so busy raising children.

They had spent time together with their husbands, the four of them, sharing dinners and evenings out, worshipping together in church.

Then, as they got older and their children moved away, they had had more time to spend together, just enjoying each other’s company. Children and grandchildren came and went, playing across their floors, and they grew old through winters by the fire and summers under shade trees.

Suddenly she longed to see her friend again and spend long days showing her the glory of the Magnificent City!

“I am her Escort, too, you know.” He smiled broadly. “I escort kindred spirits, and the Lord foreknew you to be kindred spirits of the first degree. You loved and worshipped the Father together with all your souls. You cried and laughed together in the raising of your families and in the loving of your husbands. You prayed fervently. You fought the battle valiantly. And she is coming to find her reward, just as you have before her.”

“You don’t know how pleased I will be to see her again!”

“Yes, I do.” And he disappeared.

Upon reaching the Magnificent City, her friend spent such a glorious time at the Lord’s feet, and in reading her golden book. And she, watching her newly-arrived friend, enjoyed seeing her happily reuniting with friends and family who had come to the Magnificent City before her.

“Now it’s your turn,” whispered a voice at her elbow. Her Escort nudged her forward, and then they saw each other.

With a little sigh of recognition, her friend called her name. “I knew I would find you here!”

There were hugs, and happy tears, and laughter as they reunited. Linking arms, they walked the streets of the Magnificent City, she telling her friend all about each mansion.

They worshipped together again, smiling as they remembered the countless times they had agonized over their families and how they were being raised. Now they knew how the Father’s Hand had worked in their lives, and they were comforted to know that He had superintended every moment, all according to His perfect plan. Not even the mistakes and messes could change God’s plan.

One quiet day in the Babies’ Room, the door was pushed open and their Escort stood, her friend by his side. She watched from her rocking chair, and he winked at her knowingly as her friend stopped to pick up a fair-haired child whose arms were raised up to her.

She could not hear what he said, but she knew. She watched her friend take in the room full of babies as their Escort explained. The task fit her so perfectly.

She knew, too, in the gasp of recognition as her friend looked at the child in her arms. She knew as she watched a soft, cushioned rocking chair appear next to her own, and their Escort pointed it out to her. As her friend made her way over to where she sat, she saw tears of joy and knew again the familiar, aching desire to rock a child so long departed from her.

Cups of tea appeared nearby, and they sat thus, rocking bundles of warm, cuddly babies, chatting, and laughing.


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Filed under Pain and suffering, Parenting, Uncategorized

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