Wednesday, October 26, 2011
What I Read Wednesday: Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo
When Colton Burpo made it through an emergency appendectomy, his family was overjoyed at his miraculous survival. What they weren’t expecting, though, was the story that emerged in the months that followed—a story as beautiful as it was extraordinary, detailing their little boy’s trip to heaven and back.
Colton, not yet four years old, told his parents he left his body during the surgery—and authenticated that claim by describing exactly what his parents were doing in another part of the hospital while he was being operated on. He talked of visiting heaven and relayed stories told to him by people he met there whom he had never met in life, sharing events that happened even before he was born. He also astonished his parents with descriptions and obscure details about heaven that matched the Bible exactly, though he had not yet learned to read.
With disarming innocence and the plainspoken boldness of a child, Colton tells of meeting long-departed family members. He describes Jesus, the angels, how “really, really big” God is, and how much he loves us. Retold by his father, but using Colton’s uniquely simple words, Heaven is for Real offers a glimpse of the world that awaits us, where, as Colton says, “Nobody is old and nobody wears glasses.”
Heaven is for Real will forever change the way you think of eternity, offering the chance to see, and believe, like a child.
I have a confession. I approached this book with what I considered “healthy skepticism.” I was determined not to be swept away by the drama of an amazing story. At the same time, I would keep my mind and heart open. I’m no Bible scholar, by any means. I am familiar enough with Scripture and secure enough in my own relationship with God to “try the spirits” as the Bible encourages. I intended to do exactly that.
As I read, I learned something wonderful. The Burpos have no desire whatever to convince anyone of any radical idea about God. It seemed to me that, prior to the experiences recounted in this book, Todd Burpo and his wife would have approached similar stories with the same “healthy skepticism” with which I approached their story (Of course, I could be wrong).
When faced with a seemingly unbelievable tale, I ask two questions. Do I have a reason not to believe the person telling the story? And Can I point to anything in the story that I know is wrong (either uninformed or simply untrue)?
When I applied this test to the tale in Heaven is for Real, I found no reason to suspect this man’s honesty. And I found nothing in the story went against my knowledge of the Bible. Some things challenged my opinions, but there was no account I could point to and say, “I know that is wrong because the Bible says otherwise.”
This story covers comforting things like God’s amazing love for us. It deals with painful things like the loss of loved ones or unborn children. It even touches very briefly on scary things we can’t fully understand about the end of time. Little Colton’s story (though he’s not so little anymore) touches on many issues, big and small, that Christians think about in passing, ponder at length, and spend lifetimes studying an writing books about. Everything he says at least makes sense, and much of it seems to hit the nail right on the head.
I can’t tell you all the accounts I love in this book because I don’t want to spoil it for you. But I do want to share a short excerpt that deals simply with the admonition “Ask and ye shall receive.”
During that time, Colton had also become obsessed with rainbows….
So when, in the spring of 2004, the most brilliant rainbow we’d ever seen appeared over [our hometown], we called him outside to take a look.
Sonia was the first to see it…. “Hey, you guys, come see this!” she called.
From the kitchen, I crossed the dining room to the front door and was astonished to see a rainbow so bright, so vivid that it looked like an artist’s painting of the Perfect Rainbow. Or a kid with a brand-new box of crayons illustrating his science lesson: ROY G BIV. Every color sharply divided from the next, and the whole arc blazing against a perfectly blue sky.
“Did it rain and I missed it?” I asked Sonja.
She laughed. “I don’t think so.”
Colton was down the hall in the playroom. “Hey, Colton,” I called. “Come out and take a look at this.”
He emerged from the playroom and joined us on the front stoop.
“Look at that rainbow, Colton,” Sonja said. “There definitely should be a big pot of gold at the end of that thing.”
Colton squinted at the colors pouring across the sky.
“Cool,” he said with a nonchalant smile. “I prayed for that yesterday.”
Then he turned on his heel and went back to play.
Sonja and I looked at each other like, What just happened?...
Colton Burpo hadn’t seen a rainbow in a while, so he asked his heavenly Father to send one. Faith like a child. Maybe, Sonja and I thought, we had a lot to learn from our son.
~ ~ ~
Some might say the idea of God suspending the laws of nature because a little boy wanted to see a rainbow is far-fetched. To that I say, what is far-fetched? That he could do so? Or that he would do so? I believe my God is more than powerful enough to create a rainless rainbow. And I believe he loves each of us enough to do that and more for us if we ask him. (Andrea is stepping down from her soapbox now)
This book is an excellent reminder to sometimes forget everything I think I understand about the world around me and just let God show me what he wants me to see.
Definitely 5 stars on this one.