What do you think heaven is like?
Seems like a strange question, but the thought is something that crosses my mind every once in awhile, especially before bed. I already tend to think a lot – maybe more than normal. Nighttime is my moment of reflection.
Death is something that scares me. I know I don’t have to let it – I could easily trust God. He knows what he’s doing, but it’s the mystery of it all that gets to me.
Why do so many people have to get cancer?
Why do young, innocent people have to die?
Why do we have to lose the ones we love?
I spend a good amount of time trying to figure out answers to questions I know there isn’t concrete evidence for. These thoughts about death and heaven don’t come every night, but there are nights I definitely lose sleep thinking about them. I suppose I could say I have a silent one-way conversation with God.
Why God, why do bad things have to happen to good people? Why do I get so close to people to only have them taken away in the end?
Just the thought of losing someone close sends me in a panic. Will I ever be ready for this moment? I want proof that I will see them again. I swear that will help. At least knowing will make the anxiety subside. But then I have these pangs of guilt. What if in the end, heaven isn’t about what I want or need. Maybe there is more to heaven than being reunited with our loved ones.
My husband and I are part of a young adult group at our church where we pick a book and read it, then discuss. Our last book was 90 Minutes in Heaven. I was skeptical about reading it, but curious too. Maybe this book would make better sense of heaven. To date, over a million people have read this book – something about its words affected readers, or it wouldn’t be a best seller.
The book is supposedly a true story – Don Piper, a Baptist pastor, was in a horrible car accident and claims he died for 90 Minutes. Another pastor prayed over him and Don was brought back to life. Don claims prayer was the reason he came back, but he did make a trip up to heaven…for 90 Minutes. He explained what heaven was like – there was music and colors he had never seen, and family. They were waiting for him. Everyone was happy. Love was all around.
His description brought some hope, but little comfort. Why of all people a Baptist pastor? I’m a bit of a shy Lutheran – I need simplified answers. He didn’t spend enough time explaining heaven. He was too intense for me throughout most of the book, but his story wasn’t the first I had heard about out-of-body experiences.
The day was August 9, and my older brother’s 21st birthday. The temperature was balmy, but normal for August in Illinois. My dad had finished up washing his car and moved on to my mom’s minivan. The neighbors had a big party the night before – their parents were out of town. They had too many people on their deck at once. It had collapsed. They were in a hurry to put it back together so their parents wouldn’t find out, and asked to borrow my dad’s tools. My dad ran down in the basement and came back up quickly, too fast maybe, because his heart simply stopped beating.
He hit the driveway pavement hard. He claims he saw this all. He floated out of his body and above the trees. And then he was somewhere new – a place he didn’t recognize but the colors were audacious. His late grandma was waiting for him as he remembered her cane and all. He kept asking her questions. “Is it my time?” She shrugged her shoulders. “Is that heaven?” He pointed towards a bright light. She shrugged her shoulders again. “If I go there, can I come back?” She shook her head no. And my dad was back in his body, lying on the driveway. He remembers an overwhelming sense of peace, but most of all the intensity of love.
What was that place my dad went to? Was it real or all a quick dream?
Then there are miracles. My grandparents who are devout Catholics were in a horrible car accident two Thanksgivings ago. An alcoholic who had a two-page police record pulled out behind a semi to pass in a no passing zone on a two-lane country road the exact minute my grandparents were in the other lane. He hit my grandparents head on, both going around 60 miles per hour. We are not sure how, but they survived. There were many broken bones and blood lost. They don’t remember anything from the car accident – how could they, they were completely passed out. Maybe they didn’t float above the trees or spend time in heaven, but I believe God was still there with them. He decided they needed to stay.
I mentioned my grandparents are Catholic because they pray every single day, at least 20 minutes, sometimes longer. My grandma cried to me that maybe God was trying to teach her a lesson since she spent everyday for as long as she can remember asking God to take both her and my grandpa at the same time, maybe even in a car accident…
Does God work that way?
As a result of the accident, my grandpa is now a bit of a ticking time bomb. He had a pig valve put in his heart several years ago and was on blood thinners. Because of the accident his brain slowly leaks blood; he can’t be on any thinners at all. He’s 84 – too old for surgery. Clots are forming around his valve and doctors can’t stop them. The doctors are shocked every time they see him.
Last summer the doctors insisted we get our families together and say our goodbyes to my grandpa shortly before my husband and I were married. The clots would break away at anytime and more than likely head to his brain, they insisted. I stayed an extra day with my grandpa – I needed more time with him. I had written him a note. I couldn’t say the things I wanted to directly to his face. I’m so much better at writing. That very morning before I could hand him my note, one of the clots broke loose. Instead of going to my grandpa’s brain the clot went south to my grandpa’s leg. He made it through surgery and he danced at our wedding. He still tends to his garden and heads to polka mass with my grandma on Sundays.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
I can’t explain miracles or why they happen to some people and not to others. I don’t understand why bad things happen to good people or what heaven is like or what’s going to happen up there.
The only conclusion I have is maybe our life here is like a school, and we have the choice to learn about God, let him in and believe there is more to our life than maybe we will ever be able to comprehend. I mean, there is this great emotion called love. I can’t explain it either. It’s nearly impossible to avoid, and is the only emotion and feeling that nothing seems greater than. And all the while, that feeling and emotion continues to grow. I know I can’t stop it or control how deep it goes. A friendship is born, we fall in love, we have children, we adopt, we make unforgettable memories and with all those events love gets stronger. Even in death and loss. Even when bad things happen. Somehow love has a way of finding us among our pain and sorrow. And to know all ends of love, we simply have to experience the good and unfortunately the bad.
What if God is behind this intense emotion called love? What if he’s constantly working in us through the spirit of love? And maybe when we get to heaven, the love we have inside us for our friends and parents and grandparents, husband and wives, children and grandchildren will be magnified so much that we’ll finally feel whole. Only then will we have the answers. All we can do now is trust in a promise of everlasting life and love waiting for us…
What do you think heaven is like?