And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.’ (Rev. 21:3-4)
Since my daughter Anna died five months ago, I have had many dreams about the things we used to do together. She’s in the car with me running errands. She’s learning how to swim, ride her bike, ski, and kayak. She’s asking that I read just one more story to her. It’s hard to wake up after one of these dreams only to find out she isn’t there.
Last week I had a series of dreams in which many people who had died were coming back to me. Sometimes they were just quietly there, and sometimes they had a message to share. My grandmother and grandfather came back. My mom and dad came back. Several parishioners I had known and loved came back.
In one of these dreams, I remember saying, “I’m glad to see you, thankful to know you’re well. But where’s Anna? Why isn’t she coming back? Does anyone know how she is? Has anyone seen her?”
The day after I had this dream, I shared it with two dear friends I’ve known for 40 years. We were in seminary together, and we keep close track of each other for comfort, truth, grace, and accountability.
After recounting the dream, one of them said, “And God will wipe away every tear from our eyes.”
Without a moment’s hesitation, I said, “It sure would be nice to feel God’s fingerprints on my face.”
Immediately after blurting out this snarky comment, I saw my friends for who they are and who they have been for me. In a moment, I realized that they have been God’s fingerprints on my face, my mind, my heart, my soul, my grief, my pain, and my loss. They have been the conduit of the grace and support I needed to keep going, even if I’m limping. I ended this conversation by saying, “Brothers, you are the fingerprints of God on my life.”
As I reflected upon this conversation, I began to see all the other people who have been God’s fingerprints during this terrible time of grief and sadness.
I thought about the guy I had met in the confessional when I was a baby priest and how we came to love each other through his asking for absolution and my being privileged to give it.
I thought about the several people with who I had been on the “outs,” who reached out and reached beyond whatever had happened to cause the breach with kindness and love.
I thought about the number of people who I didn’t even know before Anna died, who, after reading one of these “notes,” reached out to say how much my words—words which I’ve been given to share—were speaking to, touching, and healing them.
Person after person, interaction after interaction—all the means and ways of God’s fingerprints on my life. I had to eat my snarky words. I had to repent. I had to drop to my knees in gratitude and prayer: “Lord Jesus, I thank you for all the ways you have been wiping away my tears and holding my grief during this time.”
I invite you to see in your life what I saw in mine. When you were lonely, who came to you? When you felt lost, who helped to lead you home? When you felt broken, who helped to mend you? When you felt utter despair, who gave you the encouragement to get out of bed? When you felt ashamed, who extended grace? When you were beating yourself up, who stayed your hand? When you were about to walk down some dark and lonely path, who turned you around? Who has been the means of God’s fingerprints touching you, supporting you, blessing you, and wiping away some of your tears?
How do I know all this has happened to you? Because I believe you wouldn’t be here without God’s tear-wiping-missionaries. You wouldn’t still be faithful or trying to be faithful, you wouldn’t still be trying to do your best after so many losses or disappointments, you wouldn’t still have any faith in people or hope in life or joy in even breathing if God’s fingerprints through others hadn’t been given and extended to you in ways you will never completely know in this life.
There are two pieces of hope in today’s scripture. First, no matter what we are going through, God is with us, wiping away our tears. Second, someday, at the other end and beyond this life, “death will be no more; [and] mourning and crying and pain will be no more.”
Even if Anna doesn’t come back to me in my dreams during my remaining days here and now, I will trust that I will someday see her again. And then, the tears of sorrow will have ended. And then, the tears of joy will have just begun.
- Who has been the fingerprints of God in your life?
- When have you been the fingerprints of God for someone else?
- If you more often remembered that God calls us to be His fingerprints for each other, how might your relationships be transformed?