Have you ever had one of those conversations with your children…you know, the hard ones? The ones where your little girl or boy, curled up in fleecy jammies, speaks oceans of truth in words formed by those little lips you kiss at bedtime? And you wonder…can I shape this heart and mind? Can I answer as Christ? I had one of those moments just yesterday. And the deep conversation teased out a childlike desire to “just go to heaven”. The moment was piercing, and my heart drained out blood instead of words, and I felt caught between the truth of heaven and the truth of earth.
Because life is hard. It is hard when you are eight, eighteen, eighty. And when we start to forget the iron-clad difficulties of earthly bodies filled with desires and emotions and physical pain, we are drawn back to that flame in these moments. Moments when a child says the thought that has run through your head but not across your lips. Then she says it. And it sounds grotesque..a death wish. But in her mind, she sees God. She feels a warm breeze and sees a beautiful landscape. She escapes thoughts of friendlessness, sorrow, and deep weariness that sometimes flood in at late hours staring at a dark ceiling thinking about Monday. She pictures heaven in just the innocent way I want her to…as a glorious ending to an often painful life.
And I, I don’t want to snuff that spark of curiosity and desire, but I also want to reveal some sort of beautiful revelation of God in the fractured reality of the world. So I sit, silently, my mind balancing two realities that I’m not sure answer the unasked question of purpose. Can I convince her that pain is necessary for growth? Is it possible for her to understand that friends now will become strangers not too many years from now? Will she understand that her life is necessary to God’s bigger plan? And if I cannot convince my own daughter of the worth of life in Christ before the reward of heaven, can I convince a general public lost in despair? I falter to find an answer.
God is here in our moments, but we often feel alone. He is overseeing the world, but we often feel lost. He is saving us, but we are not always rescued from earthly pain. Heaven sounds like a reprieve. Revelations reiterates His promise to “wipe every tear from our eye. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (21:4). He reminds us that we will be, in the realest sense “His children” (Revelations 21:7). But part of the beauty of heaven comes from the reality of earth. Before we are called His children, we are reminded that “those who are victorious will inherit all this” (Revelations 21:7). Matthew warns us that “small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life” (Matthew 7:14) and John adds that we “know the way to the place I [God] am going” (John 14:4). If the prize is Heaven, the race is life. If the return is eternal life, the investment is earthly surrender. After John tells us we know how to get to heaven, he reminds us that God has already “overcome the world” (John 16:33). In Psalms, we are told that “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (46:1). And Timothy encourages us that “the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline” (2 Tim. 1:7). The Bible is full of reminders that God IS with us in the moment. And that is what I want to dwell on, what I want my children to cling to, when the feelings in our tiny hearts are overwhelming our knowledge of Truth. I don’t think the beauty of Heaven can be oversold. But I am afraid that I have been underselling the power of Christ dwelling in us. And therein lies my work with my children and the rest of the world. Emmanuel. God with us. Do not fear.