It's the most unanswered, unknown question a human will ever have. Where do I go when I die? For some of us, it's not a thought that crosses our minds very often, in fact, I prefer not to think about it all.
But out of sheer curiosity, and probably book length, I picked up Heaven is for real - a story narrated by a father whose son recounts his trip to heaven and back. Just a quick Google of the title will pull up countless opinions of the book, is the book real? is his son making it up? I won't really get into that because, I liked the book, whether you did or not.
I like books about strange and mysterious things, but very rarely have I ever read any book that intertwines religion with non-religion, and belief with non-belief so seamlessly. Todd Burpo, the author, explains very clearly that he's a minister and a christian. He also explains that he's a father who cares about his family and his son. So when Colton comes down with sudden flu-like symptoms, he was naturally worried. After multiple visits to doctors while in the middle of a family vacation, and Colton's persistant and progressing symptoms, Todd and his wife eventually rush their child into the hospital where he undergoes emergency surgery on his appendix. They soon realize that for five days poison leached into their son's body.
As parents do when their children are sick, they pray to god. I don't have any kids so I currently save my "prayers" for when I'm travelling and pray the plane doesn't crash, and also that my luggage arrives. So far, the prayers have worked.
What happens over the next year in the story is where things get interesting. On yet another family holiday, at a stopover in A&W, Colton is asked if he remembers his surgery and says "yeah, that's when I met the angels"
Woah...angels? It's this off-hand comment that throw his parents for a loop, and over the next several years, they get bits and peices of Colton's visit to heaven. A visit he says one day while playing, only lasted about 3 minutes.
What makes it interesting for me, is that not only does he recount seemingly accurate scenarios played out in the bible having never read it, he also says some facts about heaven I don't think any of us ever really considered. For instance he says, no one is old in heaven, and no one wears glasses. People in heaven also have wings of various sizes, and that it is full of more colors than exist here on earth.
As far as I'm concerned - whether Colton is right or wrong, so far heaven sounds pretty good to me. Afterall, I hate wearing my glasses, so I'm gad they aren't coming with me :)
What I found the most striking about the novel comes near the end. A running topic throughout the book is Colton trying to describe what Jesus really looks like. And it turns out, after seeing hundreds of sculptures, paintings, pictures, and drawings of different Jesus portraits - nope - none of them are him. Until he sees a portrait painted by a fellow heaven-traveller.
"Yup, that's him" - says Colton."The eyes are right"
A child prodigy raised by athiests, Akiana Kramarik has been seeing visions of heaven since she was four years old. A self-taught painter, she painted The Prince of Peace when she was eight, and another Father Forgive Them when she was nine.
Todd showed Colton the painting after seeing a CNN special about Akiana and her work.
So, is this really Jesus? Well - he looks alot more handsome than some of the other attempts to paint him. So, I'm cool if this is him. I like that he looks like a real man, and not so "angelic" - alot more masculine carpenter-style. And Colton has one thing right, the eyes look amazing.
Religion is such a touchy subject because it's interpretive. It's half-believeing something that isn't physical to the touch, and half-believing something you know should be there. At times, prayer can be a leap of better judgement, or something you do because "it couldn't hurt". Whatever it is, this book had me thinking that if heaven is for real - I'm glad. If it's not, well....no harm done.