My heart skipped a beat. If you haven’t heard your pre¬schooler tell you he was dead, I don’t recommend it. But Colton hadn’t died. I knew what the medical record said. Colton had never ceased breathing. His heart had never stopped.
I stood in the doorway and mulled over this new tidbit as Colton returned his attention to his toys. Then I remembered that the Bible talks in several places about people who had seen heaven without dying. The apostle Paul wrote to the church at Corinth about a Christian he knew personally who was taken to heaven, “Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. And I know that this man . . . was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell." Then, of course, there was John the apostle, who described heaven in great detail in the book of Revelation….
As I stood there and thought through a scriptural basis for experiencing heaven without dying, I realized that Colton, in telling me he had died “for a little bit,” had only been trying to match up his pastor-dad’s assertion with what he knew to be the facts of his own experience. Kind of like walking outside and finding that the street is wet, and concluding, well, okay, it must have rained.
See, I had this tidy little box that said, “People have to die to go to heaven,” and Colton, trusting me, concluded, “Well, I must have died then, because I was there.”
Suddenly, he piped up again. “Daddy, remember when I yelled for you in the hospital when I waked up?”
How could I forget? It was the most beautiful sound I’d ever heard. “Of course I do,” I said.
“Well, the reason I was yelling was that Jesus came to get me. He said I had to go back because he was answering your prayer. That’s how come I was yelling for you.”
Suddenly, my knees felt weak underneath me. I flashed back to my prayers alone, raging at God, and my prayers in the waiting room, quiet and desperate. I remembered how scared I was, agonizing over whether Colton would hang on through the surgery, whether he’d live long enough for me to see his precious face again. Those were the longest, darkest ninety minutes of my life.
And Jesus answered my prayer? Personally? After I had yelled at God, chastising him, questioning his wisdom and his faithfulness?
Why would God even answer a prayer like that? And how did I deserve his mercy?
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