For he looked for a city …whose builder, and maker is God. Hebrews 11:10
As a child, Florence Chadwick wanted more than anything else to become a great swimmer. At the age of six, she persuaded her parents to enter her in a 50-yard race. They did, and she came in last. She practiced every day for a year and then entered the same contest. Again she lost, but this time by not so great a margin. At the age of 11, she entered an endurance competition and completed a 6-mile course—a remarkable feat for her age. As a teenager, she competed for a spot on the Olympic team and failed to make the team.
Eventually, she married and for a while became interested in other things, but in the back of her mind she kept thinking, “I wonder if endurance isn’t my forte?” Twelve years after she failed to make the Olympic team, she successfully swam the gruesome English Channel, breaking Gertrude Eldere’s 24-year-old record. At last, she had hit her stride. Eventually, she swam the same churning stretch of water both ways—the first woman to accomplish this feat.
I couldn’t help thinking of Abraham, who saw by faith a city whose builder and maker is God. He was sure it was there, though in the flesh he could not see it.
As a girl, Florence had often looked towards Catalina Island from the San Diego area where she grew up and thought about swimming the 26 mile, shark-infested waters. On July 4, 1951, she made the attempt. The distance wasn’t the problem. It was the temperature of the frigid waters. Then on that day, a dense fog covered the coast. After fifteen hours in the water, she grew tired. Her mother, in a support vessel, urged her on, but finally, she gave up and her weary, limp body was hauled into the boat. What she did not realize is that she was less than a half-mile, not even a kilometer, from the shore.
The next day at a news conference she said, “Look, I’m not excusing myself. But if I could have seen land, I might have made it.” Not long after that, she made the same attempt. Again a misty veil obscured the coastline making visibility impossible, but this time when she was tempted to give up, she reminded herself of how close she was the previous time and gave up. But this time she made it, breaking the record by more than two hours.
I couldn’t help thinking of Abraham, who saw by faith a city whose builder and maker is God. He was sure it was there, though in the flesh he could not see it. Then there are the comforting words written by a one-time cynic, Malcolm Muggeridge, who came to faith in Christ late in life. In his book Christ and the Media he reflected on heaven, saying, “As the old do, I often wake up in the night, half out of my body, so that I see between the sheets the battered carcass I shall soon be leaving for good and in the distance a glow in the sky, the lights of Augustine’s City of God.”
When you are tempted to give up, to quit, to lose heart, think of Florence Chadwick’s words: “If I could have seen land, I might have made it.” There are some things that are very, very real though you have not seen them—too far away, obscured by distance, veiled by poor eyesight. You’ve seen pictures of them or noticed a dot on the map telling you where they are. Perhaps you’ve even talked with a pilgrim who has been there or a weary traveler who has returned and told you how it is there.
That’s the way heaven is, friend, for you who believe in God’s Son. He’s been there, and the fact is that the closer you get to it, the larger it looms before you. Don’t lose heart or let the dark waters obscure its light. It’s there.
Scripture reading: Revelation 21:1-5
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