This exerpt is taken from the book "Dominion" by Randy Alcorn. The story picks up just as a Christian mother of two dies of gunshot wounds from a drive-by shooting.
A rush of sound and fury awakened her, and she felt
a panicked fear for the safety of her daughters. But in the next moment,
Dani Rails awoke again, this time not to a scene of agonized confusion
but to a glowing quiet passageway. Behind her lay a land of shadows, a
gray and colorless two-dimensional flatland. Ahead of her lay......something
that defied description.
The departure point stood in stark contrast to the destination, a fresh and utterly captivating place, resonating with color and beauty. She could not only see and hear it, but feel and smell and taste it, even from a distance. The light beckoned her to come dive into it, with abandon, as cool water beckons on a blistering August afternoon.
She sensed intuitively this place she moved toward was the Substance that cast the shadows in the other world. If that place was midnight, this was sunrise. Up ahead was the twelve-dimensional reality of which the two-dimensional flatland had been but a replica. A very poor replica, Dani thought, the closer she got to the real thing.
"It's fabulous. Incredible."
Though she had not yet stepped foot on it, already everything within her told her this was the Place that defined all places, the Place by which all places must be judged. It was the prototype, the master from which all copies were made. The place reached out to Dani, playfully grabbing at her, drawing her soul as a powerful magnet draws iron filings.
"The colors. So many colors!"
The transition reminded her of the Wizard of Oz, where the film goes from black and white to color. But this was millions upon millions of colors. In comparison to this, all the colors of earth she'd enjoyed so much had been no more than shades of gray. now there was in infinite rainbow of colors, reaching as far beyond earth's rainbow as sunlight beyond a match flame.
"I'm getting stronger. I can feel it."
Only moments ago she'd been so weary, bone tired, the way she'd felt many nights caring for her sick children, alone without a husband. Not exactly alone. She'd often clung to the promises of someone invisible to be the Father of the fatherless. She felt now like the bride about to finally embrace the groom.
How was she moving so quickly while still feeling too drained to move? Wait. She was being carried. Carried in giant arms. How could she not have realized it until now?
She turned her head and looked up at a sculptured face, appearing semi-human, semi-marble statue. This giant of a man had a face like she'd never seen. A face chiseled from rock. Quarry stone features. She knew intuitively this was a warrior, a veteran of battles, one who had carried many wounded to safety.
"Don't know who you are, but you can carry a load, that's for sure!" She laughed that unbridled laugh, that contagious laugh which had served her so well in the difficult times. Not breaking his stride, Stoneface looked in her eyes and listened intently, the corners of his lips turning up just slightly.
Who was this? She stared at his arms, brawny and strong. The muscles were taut but not bulging, suggesting he wasn't taxed by her weight, that she was a light burden or that he was used to bearing heavy ones. Maybe like her slave forefathers. She was thankful for his strength and felt her own body infusing with energy.
She remembered her Bible. Lazarus was carried to heaven by angels. Was this an angel sent to carry her home?
He was dark - not quite as dark as she, more like pure-blooded Middle Eastern, a dark skin sun-baked to further darkness. She gazed at her own skin, the same yellow-brown as it had been on earth.
Perhaps this wasn't heaven's threshold. She'd heard once that in heaven all skin would be the same color. But which color? Actually, she hadn't pictured skin at all. Maybe heaven would be a giant hanger for skinless spirits. But what she was moving toward wasn't ghostly; it was solid. Considerably more solid than the world she'd just departed.
The warrior's size and strength and rock hard features made her shiver involuntarily. He looked away from the far end of the passageway where they were headed and gazed at her. She saw in his eyes both resolute purpose and kindness. She could almost see the rock crack and a little dust fly off as a slightly unnatural grin broke across that marble face.
"Well, hello to you, tall, dark, and handsome. You gonna tell me what's goin' on here?"
He smiled again, like one who hasn't smiled often but enjoys it when he does.
"Who are you? she asked. "An angel sent to get me?"
"Not sent to get you. Beckoned to take you. I've been with you all along. We're both going home."
"Home? You mean....home, like in the Bible?"
"Just like in the Bible."
"I didn't hear a trumpet sound."
"The trumpet comes later, at the return and the resurrection. This is not that day. It is the day of your exodus from mortality to life."
She looked confused.
"Do not worry. You will understand more soon. Are you gaining strength now?"
"By the minute. It's like I had the best night's rest and I'm ready for the big day. I haven't felt this good since.....since I was a child and it was my first day of school."
"Yes, I remember. I was there."
"But I've never seen you before. Who are you?"
"I am Torel, servant of Elyon Most High."
"No more talk of me. I am only the Bridegroom's servant. He awaits you. I must not delay. Do you feel strong enough to walk?"
He lowered her with a tenderness belying his great size. She tried out her legs like a newborn fawn. Immediately the voices grew louder, the calls and laughter intensified. Her heart surged toward the end of the passageway. Dani looked at Torel and grinned impishly.
"Catch me if you can."
She took off running. She was a child again, scurrying across the Mississippi fields, eyes upon home. The guardian behind her reminded her of Clarence, who pretended he couldn't catch her running across those fields, staying just a breath behind her. The enchanting laughter beyond made her want to run faster and faster then leap carelessly into the wonder, losing herself in Joy.
"It's a birth," she cried, arms flailing in the air, gaining strength with each stride rather than losing it. It was a birth, she knew. Her own! She was about to thrust herself into heaven's birthing room. She realized in an instant that her entire life on earth had been but a series of labor pains preparing her for this moment.
As she was once born into a world of cold confusion and blaring artificial lights, she was now being born out of that cramped domain into a wide open realm of warmth and natural light, the place for which she was suited, the world for which she had been made.
"At last," she shouted. "The real world!"
At the doorway into life stood a shining being of natural radiance, but with the brightness of a million klieg lights. The radiance threatened to blind her, but somehow her new eyes could endure it. This was more than a man, yet clearly a man. She knew at once who it was. He who had been from eternity past, he who had left his home in heaven to make one here for her. He who spun the galaxies into being with a single snap of his fingers, who was the light that illumined darkness with a million colors, who turned midnight into sunrise.
It was he. Not his representative, but he himself. He put his hands upon her shoulders and she thrilled at his touch.
"Welcome, my little one!" He smiled broadly, the smile teeming with approval. "Well done, my good and faithful servant. Enter into the kingdom prepared for you. Enter into the joy of your Lord!"
He hugged her tight and she hugged him back, clutching on to his back, then grasping his shoulders. She didn't know how long it lasted. These same arms had hugged her before, somehow - she recognized their character and strength - but she enjoyed the embrace now as she'd never dreamed she could enjoy any embrace. It was complete, utterly encompassing, a wall of protection no force in the universe could break through. His was the embrace she was made for. He was the Bridegroom, the object of all longing, the fulfillment of all dreams.
"My sweet Jesus," she said.
She bowed to worship him and he delighted in her worship. Then he lifted her up effortlessly and gazed into her eyes. She studied his eyes through the blur. She saw in them things she had long known coupled with things she had never imagined and still others she sensed she would never fully grasp.
"You're crying," he said. He put out his hand and wiped away her tear. As the hand came close to her cheek a feeling of terror struck her, a feeling she'd assumed could have no place here in Joy itself. She cringed because she saw his outstretched hand was marred and disfigured.
"Your hand." She looked at the other. "Both hands. And your feet." He allowed her to contemplate what she saw.
These were the hands of a Carpenter who cut wood and made things, including universes and angels and every person who had ever lived. These same hands once hauled heavy lumber up a long lonely hill. These same hands and feet were once nailed to that lumber in the Shadowlands, in the most terrible moment from the dawn of time. The wound that healed all wounds could make them temporary only by making itself eternal. Hands and feet of the only innocent man became forever scarred so that no guilty one would have to bear his own scars.
She saw his pain. An ancient pain that was the doorway to eternal pleasures.
Understanding rushed upon her and penetrated her mind as the howling wind had penetrated every crack in her bedroom in that old ramshackle Mississippi home. She wept again, dropping to his mangled feet and caressing them with her hands. He put his fingers under her chin and turned her eyes up toward his.
"For you," he said to her, "I would do it all again."
She could not stop weeping. She was surprised she could cry here, one of the first surprises in an eternity that would bring endless ones. If some tears would never be cried again, she thought, then tears of love and joy and fulfillment were among heaven's pleasures.
She searched the Carpenter's face as one searches a face she has yearned for, which she has seen in her dreams as long as she can remember. On the right side of his throat, she saw another scar, a mark of discoloration, not prominent, only an inch long. The scar looked remarkably like....she reached suddenly to the side of her neck to feel the scar from the broken beer bottle She couldn't feel it. Gone.
He smiled at her, rubbing his finger on his scar, which used to be hers, just as she had so often done on earth. Then quickly the scar on his neck disappeared. But the scars on his hands and feet remained. She knew they always would.
They talked long, just the two of them, without hurry and without distraction. A circle of people surrounded them waiting for them to finish. But she did not want to finish. She was held captive by one face. She asked countless questions, and she was surprised that he asked her some too, since she knew he knew the answers. He said to her, "I have a secret for you."
"A secret? I thought there were no secrets here." She'd always imagined she'd miss telling secrets to her girlfriends, not the gossipy kind, but the good ones.
"You were wrong," he said simply. "You'll find you were wrong about many things, and you will take delight in discovering the way things really are."
"But what is this secret you have to tell me?"
"It is a name, one which I chose for you long before I created you. It will be private, a name shared between us alone. Only I will call you by this name." He leaned and whispered into her ear, "Your name is....."
Those in the surrounding circle saw her eyes grow big, her jaw hang open. They didn't hear her new name, but they remembered the feeling of hearing for the first time their own true name, which perfectly captured everything they were, all their loves and longings and gifts and character and personality traits. As he gave her the name, each heard in his own mind the name the Carpenter had once first whispered to him.
Her new name was her true one, now finally discovered after a lifetime of groping for identity in the dark world. Her name perfectly captured her uniqueness as his special creation. It perfectly expressed her nature as his beloved. And it testified in some unique way to one particular facet of his character.
She repeated the name within her. It was so beautiful and so perfect. As if it were the name that had always been hers, but which she had never known. She felt at the same time free of self, free of the burden of self-preoccupation. Yet she felt ten thousand times more herself than she had ever felt, as if all the convoluted scars that had buried and distorted the person Elyon had meant her to be were now gone. At last she was free to be who she was, who Elyon had made her to be.
The Carpenter looked in her eyes, nodding, understanding the liberating realization of this moment. "Those who spend their lives trying to find themselves never do. But you have lost yourself in me. In doing so, you have found yourself."
He squeezed her hand tightly and said, "Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. You are among them. This is the place I have made for you to shine."
She smiled, unaware of the radiance of her smile, knowing who she was and whose she was and having no desire to look in a mirror to approve or disapprove of what she saw.
"There are many who wish to welcome you." The Carpenter pointed to the crowds still holding their distance.
"Here she is," he said to them. "You can have her now!"
As he watched delightedly, friends and relatives swarmed to her. She put up her hands for protection before realizing she didn't need to. In a sea of faces, one pressed near with greatest urgency, a face and a fragrance she had never forgotten.
"Mama. Oh, mama!"
"Dani. My little girl."
The hug was tight and long, and the two who had once been inseparable spoke to each other for the first time in fourteen years.
"Mama, I missed you so. Daddy misses you and antsy and everybody. We talk about you all the time."
"I know. I've been listening." She grinned just the way she always had, but without the burdens that once pulled down on the corners of the grin. "You didn't think death was going to stop your ol' mama from keepin' her nose in your business, did you child?"
"Oh, Mama. I can hardly believe it."
"There's so much to show you, baby. But there's so many people who want to see you first." She looked up over Dani's shoulder and smiled broadly.
Before Dani could turn, two hands from behind gently covered her eyes. No one had done that for years. Not since her childhood when someone always used to come up and....Darrin!
She turned and stared up at the face of her brother who'd died in Vietnam.
"Darrin, it's you. Oh, my sweet Jesus, it's really you." Dani wept as you weep when reunited with those you never got to say a proper goodbye to. "Oh, Darrin. I yelled at you before you went off to Vietnam. I was so stupid. Do you forgive me?"
"Quiet, Dani. Don't talk about that. Of course I forgive you. We're both forgiven or we wouldn't be here. Let me just look at you. My little sister. I've watched you. I've prayed for you. I'm so proud of you."
Dani never remembered him crying. He and Clarence and Harley and Ellis were all tough on the outside. They could be called every name, kids would throw rocks at them, but they'd never cry. Now here was Darrin, crying unashamedly, but happier than she ever remembered him.
Dani saw her giant companion Torel looking on with others of his kind, studying the scene in front of them as if it were somehow beyond their grasp. Then her eyes again caught those of the Carpenter. She relished the look of recognition in his eyes. In her mind she heard him say to her two words as clearly as if he had shouted them.
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