Once I figure out what I really think of the book, that is.
A little background first. While we were on sabbatical a friend gave me this book to read. I had never heard of it other than maybe in passing on the news. I had never read it. I really didn’t know much about it at all.
So if you’re like me and don't know much about the book, I’ll give you a quick two-sentence synopsis. Colton Burpo, not quite four years old, has an emergency appendectomy and is very near death. Several weeks later he begins to tell bits and pieces of what happened to him while he was on the operating table, and it seems to his pastor-dad that he has been given a glimpse into heaven.
The rest is the book Heaven Is For Real.
I honestly don’t know what I think, other than knowing that the book has certainly stayed with me.
I decided, for the sake of research, to read what some others have said about the book and found reactions that range anywhere from “Cool! He went to Heaven!” to “Hmmm, maybe.” to “No way. No how. There is nothing like this in the Bible anywhere.”
A little grace-less, that last post, in my opinion.
Here are some things I know:
- Nobody in the Bible had an experience like this and came back to tell about it. Yes, Lazarus was dead, but once he came back to life there is no biblical evidence that he spoke about his experience in heaven.
- God has told us everything we need to know about heaven in the Bible. He doesn’t need a little kid to do His work for him.
Here are some things I wish:
- I wish God had told us a little more about heaven in His word.
- I wish I understood heaven better.
- I wish I longed for heaven more—I think it would change the way I look at the world around me.
Here are some things I felt after I read the book:
- More secure in the love God has for me. There’s a part in the book where the parents ask Colton what God looks like. He thinks about it for a long while and then he says that God is big. But then, rather than focusing on what God looks like, he says (and I paraphrase), “He loves us so much. He really, reeeeeaaaaally loves us. You can’t believe how much God loves us!”
As someone who constantly struggles with wondering why God would love me—little old unworthy me—this section of the book made me stop and think for a while. And cry just a little bit. Because when I think about the marks on Jesus’ hands and feet (another part of the book), I have to ask myself, who am I to question God’s love for me? He sent His SON to die for me. Of course He loves me!
(He loves you that much too, by the way.)
- Really excited to get to heaven someday. There are people I can’t wait to see there. My brother, especially. And my dear Grandpa Earl. I thought of them constantly as I read this book. Do I think they are eternally sitting by a pond fishing together? I have no idea. But do I know without a doubt they are there, waiting to greet their loved ones. Yes, I do. And what a glorious reunion that will be.
But here’s where the book and I part ways. My biblical understanding of heaven is that worship will be a huge part of what we’re doing in heaven. It’s not ultimately about seeing our loved ones again. It’s all about Jesus and His Father, and laying our lives before His throne because of what He has done.
And there’s very little of that in the book.
There are lots of stories about a long-lost grandfather or a too-early-lost sister who was miscarried long before Colton was born. There are reflections about what Jesus looked like and what He was wearing. And a really hard-to-believe part about angels flying around.
But where’s the worship?
“Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they were saying:Personally, I don’t want to spend my time in heaven focusing on my past hurts, losses, or griefs. I want to spend eternity focusing on the One who loves me so much that He would give his life for me.
“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”
Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” Revelation 5:11-13
Do I believe Colton’s story? I still don’t know. I think I will always take the 5th on that one.
Do I want to believe it? You bet.
Is his story the most important one and the story where I should focus my attention? Absolutely not.
And maybe that’s the best takeaway I could get from this book.