Our four children had a great time wading in the mountain river until the thunderstorm whipped up and we all scrambled for the van. I tossed their beach towels to them and we dried off before heading into town to look for a warm restaurant.
The first restaurant we saw was called “Heaven’s Gates” and since we were all still shivering, this sounded like a warm place to spend the next hour.
As we descended a landscaped slope, anxious to be enveloped in “Heaven’s”’ warmth, I realized that this was not the proper pathway into the restaurant. A waiter stood outside the restaurant, attired in a black tuxedo, with a white linen towel draped over his arm. He cocked one eyebrow at my children tip-toeing around perennials and petunias. By the time we reached the courtyard, we’d carved a new trail to Heaven and the kids had the mud to prove it.
We slinked past the tuxedo guard and into a lobby that gleamed with a golden brass counter. A receptionist inspected us as we stepped in. I did feel warm but it was from embarrassment as I studied my children. Their hair dripped and their muddy toes slipped in their sandals. However, they were already marching through the pearly gates and into the dining room. The receptionist turned pale. I nodded, bowed my head, and entered Heaven. Don’t we always sing, “Just as I am”? Well. Here we are, Lord. Fresh from the River.
I expected a fireplace and warm cozy booths but I was greeted instead with an air-conditioned gust that stung my damp skin. The kids were already snuggled together at the nearest table, clinking the crystal goblets.
My husband leaned over the linen table and gathered all the crystal to one end. Maybe we should leave, I thought, but then again, this might be a golden opportunity to teach our children some manners. And surely, it will warm up in here.
Bach’s Concerto in D minor interrupted our discussion. I turned, hoping to see an ensemble of violinists but all I got was another blast from the air conditioner.
“What do you have on the menu for children?” I asked. They didn’t serve fries or hamburgers. However, they did create a peanut butter and jelly sandwich that should cover the cost of their heating bill for a year, I thought, blinking at the price. Once our hair freeze-dried and our blue fingers turned numb we enjoyed our meals.
At Heaven’s portal we paid for our dinner, wishing we had invested in Heaven long ago now that we had bought large shares in it. We breezed past the saintly guard and up the proper way to our vehicle this time.
We laughed all the way back to our camper and even had an opportunity to teach our children some lessons from this encounter: There is only one Way to Heaven. Don’t try to sneak through the flower garden! And maybe ‘gathering at the river’ isn't such a great idea before entering heaven.
And finally, the next time we look for a restaurant we won’t settle for one where the waiter is standing outside.
We discovered he’s only there because he’s trying to get warmed up.
“I am the Way – yes and the Truth and the Life. No one can get to the Father except by means of me” (John 14:6).