I have often wondered when someone dies, why we are inclined to say to ourselves "may they rest in peace (RIP)". As we are standing over a casket, often lost for words of condolence for a grieving family member, we weakly offer the words "they are now in a better place" or "they are at rest now" or "he/she looks so at rest."
We have all said those words countless times. In truth, we may have said them because we were at a loss for something more meaningful to say, but we mean well and the expression is accepted with grace and appreciation.
Here is an analogy, however, that I recently came across that has helped give significance to those expressions for me. If you have ever visited one of the great theme parks like Canada's Wonderland on a summer holiday weekend, you’ll know that the journey to get there is the worst part—crowded 401 and 400 highways, hot car, fraying nerves. But finally, you get to the massive parking area.
The parking lot is in some cases at least a mile from the theme park, but you do feel you have arrived. There is upbeat music coming from speakers, and helpful attendants to guide you to a parking space and the transportation to the main gate. In the mid-distance you can see the tops of some of the rides, the Disney mountain, and hear the sounds of people enjoying themselves. It is a foretaste of what you too will soon be experiencing.
You have not yet arrived at the final destination, but you are no longer outside. The hardest part of the journey is over. Perhaps you are eager to get started, and the kids are tugging at you, asking, like those souls under the altar John saw in Revelation, “Can we go in now?” And the answer is “All in God’s good time.”
In God’s good time, the new heavens and the new earth will be revealed to us all. There may be some surprises, but surely no disappointments for those who have eagerly and bravely awaited the fulfillment of destiny.
This is what now goes through my mind when I hear of some one's passing or I attend a funeral service. We are saying goodbye to a loved one, a close acquaintance. But could it be that somewhere in a place beyond our reach, our experience and imagination, God is saying “Hello. Welcome -- not to your eternal rest -- but to the rest of eternity”?
Something to think about. Just a slightly diferent twist.
May God welcome us all to the rest of eternity when we exit this world and enter the wondrous new one in the great and unknown beyond.