I had this thought while out walking the dog this evening – heaven is going to be a lot like Mississippi.
I’m well aware that many would hardly consider this new revelation. After all, everybody knows that the local dialect is the accent of heaven. But two events today reminded me of something else about Mississippi and made me think about heaven.
The first happened on Facebook, when two of my seemingly separated worlds collided. I won’t bore you with the details, but it was enough for me to see that not only is the world a small place, increasingly, cyberspace is as well.
The second happened at supper tonight. We had the McNeils here with us (missionaries to Uganda). I knew they were here and wanted to introduce myself and put some faces to names. As I was speaking with Don he commented, “you know, I don’t think you’ve changed much since you were a kid.” Something between confusion and panic struck. Was he confusing me with some other good looking child from his past, or did I know these people? I said something about hairlines and waistlines and time, and then the conversation moved along. (I sure hope Don and Fran don’t read the FPCJ blog!)
As soon as I could, I went back and did what every grown man does in such a situation – I called my mom. Nothing but voicemail. So I tried my dad, who was reachable.
“Hey dad, do you know Don and Fran McNeil – and more importantly right now, do I?”
“The McNeils, why yes, they were in our church in Louisville when we were (mid 80s).”
Mystery solved. I did know them, or at least knew them when I was ten or eleven in another part of the state. Welcome to Mississippi, birthplace of interconnection, where everybody is related and it only takes two minutes when meeting a stranger to find out he went to school with your brother or that your sister in law is his cousin, or any of the seemingly endless connections that link everybody here with everybody else. I’m sure there are other places in the world where this happens, but I doubt anywhere in the US can boast the same concentration of connection than the state of Mississippi. It becomes like a little game, figuring out how people are connected. I spent the first twelve years of my life in Mississippi, and I cannot count on one hand the number of people in this congregation to whom I am somehow connected. Bebo Elkin was my childhood principal and Barbara Porter my first grade teacher. My brother played baseball with Roger Caperton. My dad followed Brister Ware in campus ministry at USM and was later on staff at a church with Palmer Robertson. And on and on the list goes.
Which leads me back to heaven, where in eternity we will have the chance to pursue a favorite Mississippi pastime – figuring out how we are connected to everybody else? But instead of fraternities and hunting clubs and marriage, Gospel connections abound. I look forward to hearing the stories of how the lives of heaven’s inhabitants were connected in this life in ways we never knew. How the ministry of the a couple I forgot I knew led to the building up of the ministry of an African pastor whose own ministry was used by the Spirit to draw men and women to Christ. How many connections will be discovered in heaven? Who knows, though eternity is a long time to try and find out.