There’s a glorious movie from the early 90s which, I’ve discovered, many people don’t know about. Enchanted April** is one of my all-time favorites, the story of 4 women who escape a dreary April in London in the 1920s and rent a villa in southern Italy, called San Salvatore. Two of them arrive at night, coming to a deserted train station in the middle of a fierce thunderstorm. Suddenly a man appears, whisks them into a carriage, and drives them on a perilous journey to the villa.
It was August instead of April, and the city was dry and dusty, not wet and soppy, but I had a similar feeling a few weeks ago when I travelled to France for a friend’s wedding. I flew to Paris, took the TGV to Poitiers, and then boarded a local train to reach a station so small and remote it didn’t rate a picture on the French train network website. From there, someone would pick me up and take me to the wedding location. But as I started my journey, I realized that was all I knew. I didn’t have a phone number for the place; I didn’t even know the street address. If no one came for me, I was going to be sunk. I had to take it on faith that I wouldn’t be forgotten and everything was going to be alright.
The little train headed out of Poitiers, filled with families returning or going on vacation. The train started to climb, through a forest, then past fields of dying sunflowers.
It soon arrived at my station and a handful of people got off and quickly dispersed into cars. The parking lot was empty. There were no stores, no pay phones. My nightmare was coming true.
There was one other man waiting but he didn’t seem to be looking for anyone. Then we exchanged glances and tentative hellos, and found out that we were both wedding guests. Each of us breathed easier. Soon the groom came to pick us up and whisked us away on a perilous journey on a narrow two lane road [driving as if he was back in Egypt where he lives].
Then we arrived at the wedding site. It felt like coming home. I only knew the groom and his family, but I soon met old unknown friends from South Africa [the bride’s country] and the Middle East and France, and the States and England.
We found our sleeping spots in one of the half dozen stone buildings on the property. It reminded me of an old song we used to sing:
“I can’t wait to see heaven
and to walk those streets of gold
I can’t wait to check into my mansion,
and get my sleeping bag unrolled.”
I slept in the “Petite Maison”
We gathered with the rest of the guests [about 60 at that point] for supper, eating on long tables.
Then some went off to worship while others pitched in to prepare the next day’s wedding feast.
The next morning, I got up early to help serve breakfast.
I joined with another new friend to cut the wildflowers other guests had collected that morning from the fields.
Then it was time for the wedding. There was something heavenly about the service, conducted at various points in English, French, and Afrikaans. The pastor pointed out how this wedding celebration was an illustration of the one that awaits us. The bride and groom had done the legal paperwork several weeks earlier in Egypt. But this was the day they were joining together in marriage–just like Jesus has taken care of the legal formalities for our entrance into the celestial wedding banquet, and we are waiting for the actual celebration.
After the bride and groom said their vows, they washed each others’ feet. I’ve seen this done many times before but it was particularly moving to see the groom and the bride kneel down on the grass in their fancy wedding clothes, and perform this humble act of service. It was a powerful illustration of what Jesus did when He washed the disciples’ feet.
Throughout the weekend, there were so many examples of heaven:
people traveling from all over the world,
meeting strangers who were family,
the hospitality of the family friends who opened up the farm and all the buildings for a week,
everyone pitching in and doing their tasks to make the celebration
And all around us, there were fruit trees and flowers in bloom.
It was almost Eden.
No one wanted to leave, but Sunday, after a South African breakfast, people started to leave to catch trains and planes.
I got a ride back to Paris with a saint from Mali, and spent midnight in Paris…but that’s another story.
Then the Angel showed me Water-of-Life River, crystal bright. It flowed from the Throne of God and the Lamb, right down the middle of the street. The Tree of Life was planted on each side of the River, producing twelve kinds of fruit, a ripe fruit each month. The leaves of the Tree are for healing the nations. Never again will anything be cursed. The Throne of God and of the Lamb is at the center. His servants will offer God service—worshiping, they’ll look on his face, their foreheads mirroring God. Never again will there be any night. No one will need lamplight or sunlight. The shining of God, the Master, is all the light anyone needs.
Revelation 22:1-5 The Message