My daughter first asked me about heaven a few weeks after her fourth birthday.
“Mommy, I’m scared of Heaven. I don’t want to be dead and live anywhere without you and Daddy. ”
Quietly exhaling, I sat still with her on my lap. I wasn’t sure where to start, so I kissed her worried, wrinkled, forehead and said, “Oh darling, Heaven is the most wonderful place.”
We had discussed Heaven and death a few times already that week after we discovered her fish Sprinkles floating lifelessly in his little tank. However, each question I answered seemed to have left her more unsettled. My four-year-old wanted answers that meshed with her immediate reality. She could not clearly fathom the time differences between “next month” and “next year.” She could not imagine life without her family. She only knew what it was like to be a toddler and that was her yardstick for measuring the future.
“But what kind of skin will I have when I get there?”
Oh boy, she goes straight for the unknowns, I thought. Why couldn’t she ask me about the streets?
“Well, I am not sure. God will give you a new and wonderful body.”
Her frown deepened.
“I don’t want a new body. I want to keep this body that God already made me in. I love it. It is so beautiful.”
Smiling at her precious innocence and admiration for God’s artistry, I kissed her again, and as I did, I noticed a bandage on her foot.
“Well, your new body will be even more beautiful and it won’t get any boo boos on it ever.
The corner of her mouth rose slightly.
“That is a very good thing. But I’m still not sure I want to go there. Will you go with me?”
“No one knows when they are going to go to Heaven, but I promise you that I will be there someday.”
“I just really like living here in this beautiful world,” she continued.
“We do live in a beautiful world. God made it so. But people made it messy in some ways by doing some ugly things. Heaven, will be perfect. There won’t be any mean people in Heaven. No monsters. No scary spiders or snakes. In fact, when you get to Heaven, I bet Jesus will let you pet a real lion. And the lion won’t even bite you because only gentle, friendly lions live in Heaven.”
The face of my animal-loving girl gleamed.
“Wow! That will be really wonderful. Can I run with the Cheetahs too? Cheetahs are my favorite”
“I think you will. And if so, can I run with you?”
“Do you know what else is great about Heaven? You’ll be able to meet people that lived on Earth before you were born, like my grandmothers and Jesus’ mommy.”
Suddenly, my marathon talker was silent, her smile radiant.
“And do you want to know the very best part about Heaven? It’s that you get to hug Jesus.”
“Ohhhh! That is going to be so wonderful!”
Then her smile wavered. I bit my lip and thought, I cannot possibly top hugging Jesus. What on earth is bothering her now?
“I don’t have to die and go to Heaven now….right Mommy? It will be a long time when I go to be with Jesus right?”
“I think so sweetie.” Oh Lord, let it be so, please let it be so, I prayed.
“But whenever you get there, I promise you that you will not feel sad for one second. You will be very safe. All you will feel is love.”
I hugged her tight and traced my index finger around her tiny freckle and I kissed her again. And then I felt a tender sensation in my soul. I cannot imagine Heaven being more beautiful than a moment like the one I just described between my daughter and I. But it will be.
Seven years have passed since that conversation, but I remember every detail and I think about it often. When this world becomes too much, I rush to the memory of holding my girl close to my chest and talking about a very real place where lions won’t bite. And while no one knows exactly how heaven will look or feel–because nothing on earth can compare–my heart longs for my forever home.
Isaiah 11:6-9 The Message
The wolf will romp with the lamb, the leopard sleep with the kid. Calf and lion will eat from the same trough, and a little child will tend them. Cow and bear will graze the same pasture, their calves and cubs grow up together, and the lion eat straw like the ox. The nursing child will crawl over rattlesnake dens, the toddler stick his hand down the hole of a serpent. Neither animal nor human will hurt or kill on my holy mountain. The whole earth will be brimming with knowing God-Alive, a living knowledge of God ocean-deep, ocean-wide.
How do your envision heaven?