Death and Life of a Soldier: 3
CHAPTER THREE THE HALL OF FRIENDS
What an exhilarating experience it was! They neither walked, nor ran, but seemed to speed rapidly through the air, close to the high ground, but far above the valley. Each of the angels had a hand upon his shoulder, and Reg felt as natural as though he had always travelled like this. He looked about him with interest, noting the wide, sweeping expanse of downland, the thick woods and winding streams, the fields bright with flowers and the tall mountains. Once, he caught a glimpse of the sea and his heart leapt. Neither of the angels spoke, so he remained silent too, quietly enjoying the novel journey.
“We are here,” said the man guide at last. They came gently to rest at the entrance to a large park. Reg paused to look appreciatively about him. The wide lawns were interspersed with golden-hued paths and everywhere were great banks of vivid flowers. Seats were set in scores besides the paths, each a little apart and sheltered. On many of them small groups of people were sitting, talking animatedly. Along the paths, others were walking and Reg watched their easy light steps and heard many joyous laughs ring out from among them.
He turned to speak to his angel guides, but they were no longer beside him. He was just about to feel lonely and confused when he caught sight of a familiar face. It was ‘Goody Gordon’s’. He ran forward eagerly. Gordon was sitting at ease upon one of the nearby seats. He seemed to be clothed in loose garments of plum colour, and his arms, draped in their loose sleeves, stretched along the back of the seat. As Reg approached, he did not move but sat smiling upon him with a slightly quizzical air. Reg stopped before him, gulping in eager embarrassment.
“I say, Gordon, it is good to see you!” he jerked out at last. “But you look so much at home almost as though you have been here for ages.”
“Perhaps I have,” Gordon agreed calmly. “As the angels say, time has no measure here.” He patted the seat. “Sit down, my dear fellow.” Reg flung himself down and sat gazing at his companion in wonder.
“What is that outfit you are wearing? Looks kind of cool and easy after a stuffy uniform.”
“What about yourself?” Reg looked down at himself and his cheeks burned.
“Guess I didn’t even notice it, it’s that comfortable! It is white, though. Yours is reddish. Why is that?”
“Degree,” explained his friend briefly.
“I seem to have heard something about degrees. Doesn’t it mean you are closer to the Father?”
“Yes. Just a little closer. How wonderful it is!”
“You have always cared about that sort of thing.”
“That sort of thing!” Gordon exclaimed warmly, “How can you speak like that? What else is there to care about really? This is God’s Home and He is Love! Our whole life is to overcome our weaknesses, to make amends, to learn and grow and climb!”
“But what about me?” Reg queried. “I asked about my sins, but the angel fellows just said I must meet my friends first.”
“That is because you want to.”
“I know! But does one do just what one wants to, here? If so, why should anybody think about their sins ever? How can they learn?”
“My dear fellow, your are learning all the time.”
“Of course. Have you not learned already that Heaven is real, that the Father is everywhere, that He loves us and is gentle with us, that angels guard us while we are on earth and guide us in Heaven. ”
“Why, I have! Then I am not wasting time and putting off the evil moment by seeing my friends first?”
“The ‘evil moment’ is here, now, and remains all the while you learn,” Gordon explained, adding with a twinkle, “Is it so very evil?”
“No. It’s jolly good! But how can it be?”
“Because God is Love. Do learn this well. It is when we oppose His Love that we bring evil upon ourselves, for, by turning away from Love and goodness, we turn towards evil.”
“I think I am beginning to understand. Then all I have to do is just to see my friends and enjoy myself, and then I shall be learning all the time?”
“Partly. But there is more in it than that! You have to be humble, for one thing not cluttered up with all your own ideas. If you are willing to learn, and humble enough to acknowledge your faults when you see them, you will be able to see more. Light is given us as we grow. The more we grow, the more clearly we can see the Holy Ones. Remember the ‘pure in heart’ shall see Him.”
“Have you seen Him?” Reg whispered.
“Yes.” The word seemed to linger in the air and say more than many words could tell. Reg asked slowly:
“Was it awful? Being so full of faults I mean.”
“He is our Beloved…” Gordon said gently. There was a little silence after that. Reg watched the passing figures abstractedly, letting all he had learned sink into his consciousness. He began to feel stronger and more at peace than he had ever felt before. A sense of delightful rest stole over him, as though there were nothing to battle with any more, as though all the tumult, conflict and hatred of the world were far away.
Gordon startled him by suddenly answering his thought. “You have come home, my friend.”