It is Saturday afternoon, July 14, 2007. Sara Faye and I are at a Fudge family reunion hosted by my brother Benjamin and his wife Susan at their home in beautiful Upland, California. Nestled at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains in San Bernardino County, this little section of Planet Earth must make “San Gabriel” the archangel smile with pleasure. I can just imagine him rejoicing in its magnificence, even now after thousands of years of spoilage by human sin, trembling with delight in anticipation of its fulfillment in the new heavens and new earth.
To my mind, Paradise connotes a fruitful and sweat-free earth, a remainder (and also reminder) of which I experienced a little while ago when I walked through my brother’s yard. There in God’s own produce department I strolled past trees bearing lemons, oranges, tangerines, avocados, apricots and peaches (not to mention vines of blackberries). For my lunch today I chose three choice peaches — ripe prizes, fire-colored by the sun and dripping with sweetness as I savored them bite by bite. Creation is now under a curse, I recall. I cannot begin to imagine its glory when it enjoys redemption with the sons and daughters of God.
Paradise also means family and the fulfillment found in loving relationship. This weekend brings together representatives of four generations, blessed and presided over by my soft-spoken but ever-influential mother, Sybil Short Fudge Dewhirst. Now 84 and twice-widowed, she regularly prays for a lengthy list of spiritual beneficiaries, teaches a women’s Bible class and visits several “old folks” in her present home town of Tupelo, Mississippi. Also at this family gathering are four of her six birth children with three of their spouses, seven grandchildren with three of their spouses and four great-grandchildren ages 3-1/2 and younger. We miss our loved ones who could not be with us here this weekend, but we look forward to that great Reunion when none of God’s children will be absent. We will not have to separate then when we “go home.” We will all be at home and Father’s face will cheer and fill our hearts forever.