My mother passed away in 2004. She suffered from many ailments, including rheumatoid arthritis, virtual blindness, and hypertension. She was in constant pain. Her last 15 years were marked by slow degeneration, as she gradually became less mobile and more confused. A massive stroke eventually ended her life. The only thing that got me through that horrible time was a mental image of my mother dancing with Jesus, no longer suffering and without any physical limitations.
At the time, I didn’t know this particular vision is common among mourners. A guest at my mother’s viewing and another at her funeral mentioned it. “Your mother is dancing with Jesus now.” And a few weeks later a friend told me she pictured her mother dancing with Jesus shortly after her death.
I was reminded of it again recently when I attended a Celebration of Life for a young woman who was taken by mitochondrial disease. Bonnie had been a promising ballerina when her condition dashed her dream. Several of the friends and family members who shared stories about Bonnie commented, “She’s dancing with Jesus now.”
I think the universality of this image is due to the hope followers of Christ have—that after this life on earth, we will spend eternity in the presence of our Savior.
Ten years ago, I subscribed to O, the Oprah Magazine, for twelve issues. I loved the monthly column that featured what books some celebrity felt were noteworthy. But one issue that I became obsessed with contained an article about Oprah Winfrey’s Legends Ball.
In 2005, Oprah threw a celebration honoring twenty-five extraordinary women of color who made ground-breaking contributions to American culture and society. Some of the honorees were Rosa Parks, Maya Angelou, Diahann Carroll, Ruby Dee, Aretha Franklin, Lena Horne, Coretta Scott King, Leontyne Price, Diana Ross, and Cicely Tyson.
Also invited were “the young’uns,” young black women who were metaphorically standing on the shoulders of these giants, including Alicia Keys, Halle Berry, Naomi Campbell, Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson, Phylicia Rashad, Debbie Allen, and Alfre Woodard.
The party was held on the grounds of Oprah’s beautiful Montecito estate. The article included photographs of the attendees and the tables, set with gorgeous china, crystal, silver, and flowers, in Oprah’s exquisite garden. I reread the article and perused the pictures hundreds of times, longing to be part of the festivities, in the company of these amazing women. But my heart ached–I knew that if I lived to be 100, I would never qualify to be invited to a party like that, because I am not black.
Then Jesus whispered to me, “You’re invited to my party.”
Revelation 19:9 says: “And the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.’ And he added, ‘These are true words that come from God.’” (NLT) Christians believe this refers to a celebration in heaven. It will be way better than Oprah’s party, because God is infinitely better than Oprah. The extraordinary attendees will be all the saints of the church, from the apostles and King David and Mother Theresa to the widow who gave her penny, the janitor who cleaned unto to the Lord, the drunkard who repented on his deathbed, my mother, Bonnie, and me. And we will all take our turns dancing with Jesus.