As my dad lay in bed Sunday, nearing his final moments on this Earth, I was at church in worship.
One of the hymns we sang was “Higher Ground” by Johnson Oatman, Jr., a hymn that longs for “a gleam of glory bright” with the prayer to stand on “Heaven’s tableland.” It seems Oatman had had enough of this old world “where doubts arise and fears dismay” and “Satan’s darts at [us] are hurled” but the best that he could hope and pray for was to only experience that Higher Ground by faith while continuing to pray until he finds Heaven in reality.
As I sang this hymn, or rather listened to it unable to sing, I became overwhelmed with the awareness that dad was closer than ever to his feet being planted on that glorious Higher Ground, he now being quite literally straddling eternity.
What a position to be in: one leg in this corrupt world with one leg on that holy plateau of Heaven! Ready to trade in his broken-down body for one that is incorruptible! Gently holding on to those he loves while longing to see the One who is love!
I could sermonize on how Christians can -and should- be living “above the world,” basically in the world but not of it, as New Testament writers admonish, but at that moment I found myself almost envying the place where dad is, wanting to scale with him the utmost heights he is on his way to.
But for now, I have to be satisfied to experience Higher Ground by faith as dad steps over to experience it in reality. As I watch him slowly slip away it occurs to me that maybe, if I listen closely enough, I’ll hear “the joyful sound, the song of saints on higher ground” as he joins in and sings with them on his short journey home.