Children are notorious for calling it the way they see it, literally. Though they can role-play all kinds of imaginary figures, their imagination is grounded in concrete terms. I was startled recently by what one of my grandsons asked me. I’ll set it up for you.
Ever since Joseph (now 6) and Gabriel (now 5) were able to walk I would take them on “an adventure.” Using language of anticipation, awe, and excitement, I would take them on an adventure into the woods or some other place where I could fascinate their minds and senses. Over time they came to frequently ask with wide eyes, “grandpa take us on another adventure.”
A few weeks ago we were in West Virginia visiting my mom; Joey and Ashley were with us, and their three boys. It was time to go on an adventure on my dad’s four wheeler. I decided to show the boys my most favorite spot: directly behind my parents home through the woods, about a half mile, is what has come to be known as Pirates Cove on Summersville Lake. I first saw this sight when I was seven; my uncle Benny brought me to this cliff and I was mesmerized by the beauty, and the height. So, with excitement and anticipation in my voice, I began telling the boys as we headed out that I was going to give them a great adventure into the woods four-wheeling to “one of the most beautiful places that you’ll ever see.”
We got as close as we could to the cliff, parked the four wheeler and began the final 100 yard walk through the woods to this majestic edge that overlooks the lake. Getting closer to where you could just barely see blue sky through the leaves, I stopped and got down on the boys eye level and asked with excitement, “What do you hear?” Gabriel and Joseph both said, “I hear people laughing.” I responded, “That is right.” This cove is famous for cliff diving, photo-ops, and hanging out on boats, anchors away! But then I asked, “What else do you hear?” Joseph spoke up like he discovered a secret treasure, “I hear water.” It’s a beautiful sound to hear in the thick of the woods as the water from the streams flow over one of the cliffs, splashing 60 feet down onto the blue water. About this time the boys were completely and fully alert for something spectacular. “Are you ready to see something wonderful?,” I asked. They both just stood there grinning from ear to ear shaking their heads up and down with approval. I stood up and we began the last 30 yards or so. Then, Gabriel grabbed my arm and stopped me and said . . .
Remember what I said about a child’s ability to concretely, literally, say it like they see it? What came out of his mouth made me speechless. With eyes now wider than ever and with the kind of joyful anticipation that only a person would express when you really believe that you’re about to come into something truly breath-taking, he said, “Are we going to see your dad?!?!?”
Joseph’s eyes and mouth opened even wider now. My eyes filled with water and I was stunned into silence and amazement that Gabriel thought I was taking them into heaven to see my dad. They knew something was strangely odd about the sounds and sights ahead, and for Gabriel, the only natural thing that could explain the echoing of water and laughter was heaven, and the sight of my dad, their great grandpa.
The only natural explanation for the desire of eternal life that you feel deep inside of you is that heaven is real because Jesus is real. I’ll never forget this time with my grandsons and I’ll never let them forget it. The greatest adventure is ahead of us . . . as Jesus said, where nothing can ever steal our joy again (Matthew 6:19-21).
What did I say to Gabriel’s question that was filled with excitement and hope?
Taking a deep breath as if now this rock cliff and lake will not measure up,
“Not yet – not today.”