Mabel McNally waited in the Garden of Destiny as a spirit not yet born. The garden glowed with intense beauty, adorned with gems like in the heavenly Jerusalem.
“I hope this babe will become all that God creates her to be,” Gabriel said.
Castiel, the future guardian of Mabel, quoted scripture. “Many are called, but few are chosen.”
The angels watched God’s spirit wrap Mabel under the shadow of his wings, blessing her and promising her the kingdom of heaven.
Castiel sighed. “So many rewards for the earthlings, particularly this one. Her future will be difficult, starting with her birth and throughout her life.”
He lamented. “I wish we knew the outcome because we love our assignments as God loves us. We guide humans away from evil, fighting off the demons and fallen angels, but our adversary is so powerful. He taunts them in unimaginable ways…”
Gabriel interrupted Castiel. “You must not think about the adversary. Instead, focus on the power God has given you to guide your assignment. Pray for her as Jesus prayed while he walked on the earth. Humans are weak at best.”
Castiel nodded. “Yes, Gabriel. You, who spoke to Mary about the birth of the Messiah, you know so much more than me.”
Gabriel reassured Mabel. “Remember your name, ‘my cover is God,’ and let God’s spirit guide you as the guardian of Mabel. She is a tough assignment, but God puts his strongest angels where they’re most needed.”
“My dear Gabriel,” Castiel said, “I’ve had the privilege of watching many earthlings not receive all the wonderful blessings God wanted to bestow upon them. Grief overwhelms me when I witness the mess humans make of their lives because of their fallen nature. If only they knew what wonderful gifts God has in store for them, what rewards he’ll bless them with if they are faithful till the end. If only they knew.”
Recognition of Castiel’s sadness affected Gabriel deeply. “Castiel, if God had wanted to make humankind robots, he would have done so. God chose to give human beings free will. Jesus died for all humankind so they would not be robots. His gift on the cross allows free will. He even died for those he knew would reject him. What kind of sacrificial love is that?”
Castiel shook his head. “I don’t understand that kind of love, Gabriel. It’s amazing, isn’t it?”
“We must remember that,” Gabriel said. “He died for all humans so they could choose whether to accept his love or not. Robots can’t do that, and Jesus wanted a human family on earth, not robots.”
Castiel added, “Jesus even separated himself from God on the cross and descended into hell.”
“What is even more amazing,” Gabriel said, “is he would have done it for only one human. That is how much he wanted a human family on earth.”
“Gabriel,” Castiel said, “it’s beyond angelic understanding, and I feel powerless sometimes.”
“Castiel,” Gabriel affirmed, “remember, God has given you all the power you need to influence your human for the kingdom of heaven. The choice ultimately belongs to Mabel.”
Castiel sighed. “Thank you, Gabriel, for reminding me of these eternal truths.”
One Year Later
Mary McNally lay on the table at the abortionist’s clinic to eliminate the “mass of cells” inside her body. She had just started college, and following a one-night fling with a freshman two months into her first year of college, she found herself pregnant.
Having a baby was not part of her college plans. She had earned a full scholarship—hard to come by these days—and she wasn’t about to lose it. She would be the first in her family to graduate from college. What would her parents say if they found out she was pregnant? The shame would be unbearable.
The nurse spoke to her. “Are you ready?”
Mary nodded. “I want to get this over with as quickly as possible. I have tests in a few days.”
The anesthetist injected the medication into the IV to put her to sleep. Mary never woke up.
Castiel, Mabel’s guardian angel, watched with heavenly joy as the adoption papers were signed in the judge’s chambers.
“Congratulations,” Judge Hawkins said.
The new mother, Eileen, smiled as she held Mabel in her arms. After ten years of barrenness, she had the gift of a baby in her arms.
“Thank you, Jesus,” she whispered in her heart. Castiel saw tears in the new mother’s eyes. Mabel had survived a botched abortion even though her birthmother died. This little one had a fighting chance now when so many others didn’t.
Castiel prayed, “Dear Jesus, please help this little one to increase in wisdom and in stature and to find favor with both God and man.”
Years passed, and Castiel watched over his human charge with every ounce of strength God bestowed on the angel. After much prayer, when Mabel turned twelve, she accepted Jesus into her heart.
Castiel watched as Mabel grew in wisdom and stature. Her salvation was assured, but now it was up to Mabel to earn rewards for the kingdom. Accepting Jesus at such a young age meant she had a lifetime to follow her new Master, grow in wisdom, and find favor with God and man.
However, when Mabel turned sixteen, something happened that would change the course of her future—not only on earth but for eternity.
Sunlight pierced the windowpanes of Mabel’s parents’ bedroom, making the room exceptionally bright on a Sunday afternoon in May. Mabel’s dad had asked her to bring all the passports to him as he was planning a summer vacation and wanted to make sure none needed renewal. “Look in the top drawer,” her father had said.
Mabel pulled out the drawer. She shuffled through a large stack of papers, looking for the blue passports when she came upon an envelope that read on the outside, “Adoption Papers.”
“What is this?” Mabel muttered. She opened the envelope, and inside, she couldn’t believe what the document said. She was adopted.
Mabel waved the adoption papers in front of her parents. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
Her parents, shocked by her outburst of anger, stared. At last, her mother spoke, “What difference does it make, Mabel? We love you, and God gave you to us. It’s not like you can search for your birthmother. She died at the hands of the abortionist.”
“But you didn’t tell me,” Mabel said. “And I never knew I almost died in a botched abortion. Isn’t that sort of important?” She threw the adoption papers at them and stormed out of the room.
Castiel shared the incident with Gabriel. “What can I do? The young girl is treading on bitter waters now for not knowing her personal story, and she is angry that her parents withheld that information from her.”
Castiel continued. “The evil one has found a foothold on the girl. Despite all my prayers for the young maiden, I can’t get through to her anymore. She no longer reads her Bible or attends the youth group at church. She is treading among snakes and vipers.”
Sorrow filled Gabriel’s heart as he wrapped his wings around his heavenly body. “We must pray, Castiel. Jesus bestows salvation on all who receive him, but rewards are earned. Her rewards are enormous.”
“Indeed,” Castiel said. “So much potential resides in her. Her testimony would bring so many into the kingdom. I shall do everything I can to encourage her to do these things you mention—read her Bible, pray, go to church, and love the Lord with all her heart. The evil one knows her value for his enemy and is doing everything he can to usurp God’s calling on her life.”
The two angels prayed for a long time. Following the conversation with Gabriel, Castiel pressed in hard as Mabel’s guardian, but he also had to accept the young girl’s free will, and the ultimate choice was hers. Castiel longed to see her enter the gates of heaven. He had taken a peek at her Book of Remembrance containing God’s promises if she followed the straight and narrow path—but would she?
Sixty Years Later
Castiel often thought about the difference in time between earth and the third heaven. Season upon season passes until humans grow old and wonder where all the time went. In heaven, time has little significance. What seemed like decades to Mabel was only a fraction of a second to Castiel.
The day arrived when Mabel said goodbye to her friends and family.
She closed her eyes and breathed her last, and Castiel, faithfully serving Jesus throughout Mabel’s life, escorted her to the gates of heaven.
Mabel, in her spiritual body, asked, by way of thought, “Who are you?”
Castiel towered above Mabel, who was only 5’4”. As Mabel looked deeply into Castiel’s eyes, Castiel anticipated heavenly knowledge filling her mind. He didn’t need to answer. The heavenly Father would, and that truth hit Mabel immediately as horror flooded her face. Sorrow filled Castiel as they arrived at heaven’s gates.
Mabel looked longingly beyond the guarded entrance. She saw the splendor of the heavenly city, the humans that shimmered with sacred clothing, joy radiating from their faces, and then she saw her mother and father. Smiling, they waved and started to approach, but someone more significant stepped in front of them. She looked into his eyes, magnificent eyes, that emanated perfect love, a love so heavenly she couldn’t describe it. Only her parents exhibited that kind of love when she was young, and sadness filled her heart because she had rejected it.
She remembered how everything changed when she turned 16. She thought about her soul’s bitterness, the anger that burned within her, and how she clung to it. She chose not to forgive but to live in self-righteousness, pretending to be a victim. At that moment, Mabel realized the gift of salvation she received when she was twelve never blossomed into anything meaningful for God’s kingdom.
The Savior loved her, an unconditional love that would linger in her mind for all eternity, but that unconditional love would not change her eternal future. Mabel sensed the Savior asking her, “What gifts do you have to give me?”
Mabel broke into tears. “This is all my fault,” she moaned, and her physical strength left. She collapsed at the heavenly gates, knowing she would never enter them.
As she sat weeping, the Savior showed her all the magnificent rewards he had put away for her. She saw her promised place at the heavenly banquet and a shimmering, spotless gown reserved for her. Mabel witnessed the heavenly mansion Christ built for her and saw the millions of faithful followers she could have joined.
Mabel saw all of this in a fleeting moment. Then, Jesus turned his loving eyes away and moved on as redeemed earthlings followed him where she could not go.
Mabel turned to Castiel, “What happens to me now?”
Castiel said, “Follow me.”
“Where are you taking me?” Mabel asked. “Does this mean I go to hell?”
Castiel shook his head. “No, Mabel. You can’t lose your salvation, only rewards.”
Mabel breathed a sigh of relief. She wouldn’t spend eternity in hell, but if she didn’t go to heaven and she didn’t go to hell, where would she go?
Once they were beyond the heavenly gates and the light of Jesus, Mabel could no longer see into the Kingdom of Light. Surrounded by thick darkness, she heard the voices of others but could not see them. Above the voices, she heard what sounded like weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Mabel’s voice cracked. “Where are we?” As she spoke, her teeth chattered one against another. Recognizing the enormity of what she had lost, she knew she had no one to blame but herself. She was a victim of her own poor choices.
“Is there anything in the kingdom for me?” Mabel asked. “Does Jesus have a gift for me?”
“Mabel,” Castiel said, “you accepted Jesus as your Savior when you were twelve. That is his gift to you. Therefore, God’s grace saved you from damnation. But you squandered your life for the kingdom. You have no rewards, no place in the heavenly city. You will live here, on the outskirts of the heavenly Jerusalem, mourning what you could have had, but you will never see hell. This is the abode of those who have earned no rewards but who did accept Jesus as their Savior.”
Mabel heard so much crying and teeth chattering it disturbed her. And then her teeth gnashed against each other as she wept for what she could have had. Worst of all, she saw the loving eyes of Jesus look away.
No amount of repentance would change her future. For the first time, she thanked her parents. At least here, there was thankfulness for salvation. If her parents had not been Christians, she probably would have gone to hell instead of the lowest of the lowest place in heaven. Mabel acknowledged that darkness was a better place to live than hellfire and torment.
“It is time for me to leave, Mabel,” Castiel said. “I have been given a new assignment now that you have arrived at your place of eternal destiny.”
Mabel wanted to grab his wing and hold onto him, but she knew that was impossible. She watched as he entered the bright heavenly light of the heavenly Jerusalem—a light she could no longer endure.
As her eyes adjusted to the darkness, she saw souls wandering in the eternal night, saved by the grace of God. Her fate sealed, she would spend eternity here, too, left to ponder, what if…