Where Heaven and Earth Intersect
By Cathe Laurie
“Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.” —Genesis 28:12
It was on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, that springtime in May of 2008—just two months before our son Christopher suddenly left us for heaven. There have been a few times in my life where time slowed down, and eternity pressed in. Tangible and real as the warm breeze, I can still see, dancing before my eyes, that moment: the glassy lake, and light bouncing off the ripples of water made by the movement of my oldest son’s hand.
It was an unforgettable trip. Our oldest son had come with us to Israel before and as a child been baptized in the Jordan River. But this trip would be our last time here with him. That afternoon as the sun was lowering in the sky, I watched him wade waist deep into the waters to photograph his dad and the other pastors who were baptizing the people. As the baptism was finally coming to an end, I had looked away, glancing over to where his dad was standing, talking to someone on the beach. Casting my eyes back over to the water, I searched for Christopher with his camera but I couldn’t see him. That was because he was no longer taking pictures. He had handed his camera off to a friend and now he was standing, head bowed in prayer, with our associate Jeff. And I watched him be baptized for the second time in Israel.
I have the snapshot in my mind, as he came up out of the water with a smile so beautiful I can’t begin to describe it. I have the photograph to prove it. Heaven opened, angels ascending and descending on us that day. And it was a memory that brought comfort and peace to me in the dark days that were ahead. It was on the same trip that, there in the garden underneath the shade of the olive trees, near the empty ancient first-century tomb of a rich man, my youngest son, Jonathan, held a cup and a small piece of bread and raised his hand quietly to recommit his life to follow Jesus. The world of saints and angels and joy intersected with ours, as if heaven again had opened a portal—heaven bending low and earth reaching up with a hand to the sky.
Can a piece of ground, a body of water, become a touchpoint—a place where heaven and earth intersect? It did for me—for our family—on that trip.
Israel: the land of Abraham, Moses, David and Jesus. When I think about all that transpired there, over almost every square inch, I have felt at times that I should take off my shoes, for it is holy ground. It is where Jesus, God incarnate, walked. I can look through the lens of biblical narrative and let my imagination soar. Israel is unlike any other place on earth because of what happened there . . . and what will happen there.
The wildflowers in the open fields are just like the ones to which Jesus pointed when He said, “See how the flowers of the field grow? They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?” (Matt 6:28)
The hills are scattered with limestone rocks, and olive groves, and vineyards and wild fig trees; these are the same images that fill the stories of Scripture.
The scenes leap before your eyes. Walk a few miles and you travel through the centuries. Here are the fields where David watched his father’s sheep. There, the ancient steps are worn smooth by pilgrims over centuries as they climbed up to the temple courts. And this is the very mount, the place where Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem. And there is the road where He traveled, and the garden where He knelt and the place where He died and rose again to life. It is into this land where His blood, sweat and tears were spilled. All this happened here in a real place, at a real time and to real people . . . just like you . . . and me.