Roommate and Tawfiqa
In my col­lege dorm with a spe­cial room-mate,
my daugh­ter, Tawfiqa

I just got back home from see­ing the movie, “Heav­en is for Real” and I’m baffled.

“Heav­en is For Real,” based on a book of the same name, is the sto­ry of a four-year old boy who has a near-death expe­ri­ence. Once he returns to his body, he begins relat­ing anec­dotes of his vis­it to heav­en. He’s quite mat­ter-of-fact about it all. Sad­ly, no one else is. Not the mem­bers of the church board, who prayed fierce­ly for his recov­ery; not his moth­er who leads the church choir; not even his father, who is the church’s pas­tor. And that’s what’s baf­fling. A man acquaint­ed with the holy scrip­tures, which declare the exis­tence of heav­en, in no uncer­tain terms; a man who has read about, and, I’m sure, preached on the promise that, when a believ­er dies, he or she will enter heav­en and be greet­ed by loved ones who passed on, before—this man does not actu­al­ly believe that his son has seen heav­en, or that heav­en phys­i­cal­ly, literally—not metaphorically—exists.

What is such a man doing in the pul­pit? What exact­ly is his wife singing about every Sun­day morn­ing? Why do mem­bers of the church board both­er to gath­er, at all? That is what baf­fles me. After all, when it comes to the Nicene Creed, Heav­en and Hell, death, res­ur­rec­tion and eter­nal life are pret­ty basic.

In May of 1974, I rocked back and forth over the grave of my daugh­ter, Taw­fiqa, my one and only child. She died just before her fourth birth­day. As a poet and author, it’s fair to say that I am quite the word­smith. How­ev­er, believe me when I say this: I do not pos­sess the lan­guage to make you under­stand the depth of the pain I felt at the loss of my child. The pain I feel. The pain I will con­tin­ue to feel until the day I die. What makes it pos­si­ble for me to stand, let alone laugh and know joy in my life, is the cer­tain­ly that I will one day see my pre­cious child again. The Bible has taught me that. The Spir­it of God has impressed that upon my heart. Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ who died on Cal­vary, then con­quered death by ris­ing again, did so, in part, to make that very reunion pos­si­ble. If you believe that, as I do, you live your life with pow­er. If you don’t, as the pas­tor in this film did not, then you live with­in the con­straints of your own human pow­er, which is to say, with no pow­er at all. Let’s face it, human pow­er is, at the end of the day, an illu­sion. I’m not inter­est­ed in liv­ing with the lim­i­ta­tions of man. Are you? But I digress.

My cen­tral ques­tion, here, is why any­one would pour him­self into the work of the church uni­ver­sal if he does­n’t even believe in its most basic doc­trines. And when he, for a moment, began to con­sid­er that maybe heav­en actu­al­ly was real, why did he care that peo­ple made fun of him for it? If, in fact, he’s going to heav­en, he will most cer­tain­ly have the last laugh. When peo­ple mock my faith, that’s what I hold onto. But then, he is not me.

Maybe the gen­tle­man in this sto­ry was placed near the Light so that his own son could lead him ful­ly into it. Yeah. That could be it. Of course, what this par­tic­u­lar man was doing in that par­tic­u­lar church pul­pit is real­ly none of my busi­ness. It’s God’s. Bet­ter I should direct my time and ener­gy into feel­ing grateful—grateful that I believe in the Christ who died so that I could live for him here on earth, and with him some day in heav­en; grate­ful that I can look for­ward to see­ing my beau­ti­ful daugh­ter, again, as well as my fos­ter broth­er, and many oth­ers whom I’ve lost along the way; grate­ful that my belief in such things is matter-of-fact—not because such things aren’t mirac­u­lous, but because the God of the Uni­verse has shown me mir­a­cles time and time again.

What about you? Have you run into any angels late­ly? Have you expe­ri­enced the mirac­u­lous? Do you even want to? The one great pow­er we humans have is choice.

3 Responses

    Sor­ry for all of the caps! I just feel so blessed by your post! I don’t know if you would be inter­est­ed in this, but this week I just felt so weighed down by the weight of this world. So many I love around me were being hit hard by tragedies and sad­ness. I filmed this lit­tle video and post­ed it on FB: It is kin­da goofy, but it is from my heart.
    Any­way, I real­ly love your books! I rec­om­mend them all the time to folks at my pub­lic library and also to those in the schools I visit.
    I won­dered if you are plan­ning on writ­ing any more Dya­monde Daniel book?
    Thank you so much for this post and for shar­ing your gift with the world!
    God bless!
    ing 🙂

  2. Thanks for shar­ing this. It gives me a lot to think about, espe­cial­ly how movies por­tray real­i­ty … or not.

  3. Much food for thought, Nik­ki; thank you for writ­ing about it. I real­ly like the por­tray­al of the father in the book, and how as the book was writ­ten, he did­n’t shy away from telling the truth about his reac­tion once his faith got test­ed “for real.” The hon­esty about his doubts, his anger, even as a pas­tor who is sup­posed to have so much cer­tain­ty and to be a mod­el of faith for others.

    I hope his tes­ti­mo­ny encour­ages peo­ple to tru­ly be hon­est about the state of their faith, whether or not they real­ly believe what they sing and read about and pray about.

    I’m real­ly sor­ry about your loss, but admire your resilience and faith so much. I can relate to your expe­ri­ence to some extent.

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