Several years ago we got to live in England for a while. It was, as the Brits would say, lovely.
One of the side-effects of living in England for a while is that a lot of our friends and family – who’d always wanted to visit England but never quite had the motivation – became highly motivated to come. Maybe it was the free digs and personal tour guides, but I was truly happy to share in their delight of visiting a country I had grown to love. This, too, was quite lovely.
In the course of these many visits I became very familiar with London Heathrow International Airport – especially the waiting area just outside of customs.
I was never able to quite figure out what the right amount of time was to allow folks to get through customs. There are so many variables. The age of the traveler and how weary they were from their trans-Atlantic flight, did they know to fill out their customs form prior to “queuing up,” how many were traveling together, and of course, the overall amount of air traffic at their arrival time all factored into how quickly (or slowly) they got through the all-important passport-stamping customs agents.
So, I always had to arrive earlier than I really needed to be there and I always ended up waiting for quite some time.
But waiting outside of customs at LHR became one of my favorite things to do because I found it to be one of the happiest places on earth.
You see, what I learned while waiting for my friends and loved ones was that everyone standing around the customs area exit doors was waiting for friends and loved ones, too. It was a joyous place – full of expectation and hope.
Again and again I witnessed beautiful reunions bathed in tears of happiness that spilled freely and unashamedly. This happened every time I was there. Long, lingering hugs and enthusiastic kisses were the norm as families welcomed mothers, fathers, daughters, sons. Lovers who had spent too much time apart didn’t care who saw their affection for one another. Flowers for friends and other beloveds were always a part of the scene. Culture played a huge role in the steady expression of delight – from bowing low to kiss the shoes of an elder relative not seen in decades, to squealing loudly while jumping up and down in unison.
Always – without exception – happiness was the norm. I came expecting it and I was never disappointed. I grew to love this place where joy was routine.
In my own delight at simply watching others reunited with people they loved so very much I couldn’t help but let my mind wander to thoughts of heaven.
Can’t you just see it? As every soul enters there a crowd of witnesses surrounds and welcomes them in with shouts of joy and hugs and kisses! “You’re here at last! We’ve been waiting for you! We’re so glad you finally got here! We can’t wait to show you everything and everyone. Lord Jesus! Looks who’s here!”
In Luke 15: 6-7 Jesus tells of a shepherd who went looking for his lost sheep and compares his joy to that of heaven when he says, “And when he (the shepherd) comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”
And in Revelation 21 we’re told that in heaven he will wipe every tear from our eyes and there will be no more sorrow or mourning or pain or death – our joy will be routine for we will be in the presence of the One who is and gives unending joy. While the reunions will be sweet, there is no doubt about that, living in His presence will be the very thing that makes our joy routine.
Oh to be in a place like Heathrow’s customs area forever – only so, SO much better! I can’t wait!