When I was seven years young I learned that Jesus was going to return to earth one day to bring us all home to Heaven. My life has never been quite the same since that peewee revelation bible school class. I don’t remember much about it other than the fact that I was scared to death. My whole body would tense at the sound of a train rolling through my small town, or the sound of a lone horn in a marching band. I was constantly afraid that it would be Christ returning on his cloud at his trumpet call. It didn’t make sense for me to be afraid, and it still doesn’t make sense for my body to tense up at these sounds almost 15 years later.
However, sometimes that worldly part of me is afraid that Christ will return before I have done all I want to do in this life no matter the beautiful promises of the next life.
The idea of not having enough time to live the life you always expected to live is horrifying whether you’re five of fifty. It doesn’t really seem to matter how that life will end. I didn’t care whether mine would end by death or by the return of the Messiah. I just knew I wasn’t on board with either option until I was at least seventy years old.
I did not, and still do not, feel ready for the end of this life. But that’s really never our choice.
They say that when life rains it pours, and I’m convinced that my small community should be flooded. So many people in the past few years have run out of time way before anyone planned. Just yesterday the beautiful life of Kayleigh McClendon ended with only seven years on her clock. It’s heartbreaking, and it simply does not make sense.
In these moments so much resent fills the broken gaps of our hearts. There are just so many questions without answers, so many pleads with seemingly no response. But with every departure there is a new entrance, and what a beautiful entrance I’m sure her’s was.
What a beautiful thing to imagine, the view of heaven from the eyes of a seven year old.
The world itself is such a different place to children. Life is so much more magical before you learn the logistics of it. This little girl walked into a world beyond the realm of anything her young eyes have ever laid upon. She entered a world designed to amaze even the oldest and most calloused of minds. She entered a world that no earthly mind could ever create, and she entered it with her childhood faith fully intact.
When I think back on my own faith at that age, I can’t help but envy the simplicity and authenticity of those who have seen significantly less life than I have.
After years at a Christian college, seeking the depths of the Christian faith, being asked to think and write critically about bible passages and meanings, and being formed to ask and answer the hard questions of Christianity, I can’t help but be envious of children who are expected to only see God in the most innocent and Beautiful of perspectives.
At Kayleigh’s age I was never asked to respond to the acts of violence and hypocrisy associated with my faith. I was never asked to answer the question of why God allows those who love and honor him to suffer. I was never called arrogant for refusing to believe in the possibility of pluralism. At her age I never had a single reason to doubt God or to face the hard truths of being a Christian in this world.
At her age my belief in God and his role in my life had never been touched by the cruel and corrupt hands of the world.
At her age my only responsibility to my faith was to love God and love people.
As a child I was simply in love with Christ, and there was nothing more to it.
Which leads me to the second image that keeps playing through my mind, the image of this child, now completely healed and pain free, running into the arms of her savior.
There is nothing more powerful than a child’s relationship with God. At seven years old the only images you have of him are the pictures painted into your mind by your Sunday school lessons. I remember God was so mesmerizing to me as a child. He was my daddy, he was my secret keeper, and he was my very best friend.
Yes, Jesus was a friend to me as a child, a friend whom I simply adored. But sometime through the hard conversations and all of the “sinners in the hands of an angry God” type lessons, he became scary. He became a sort of rule enforcer, a God of wrath, an angry and displeased master. And as I travel back in my own mind in order to find who he was to me when my heart was still innocent, I can’t help but feel like his true identity was lost to me in the years of the judicial faith studies that people like to force upon you in age.
This little girl’s God, this man who I’m sure wrapped her in a big and comforting hug the minute she entered those gates, can still be my God, can still be your God. The God who surly looked into this child’s young and mesmerized eyes and said, “Well done my great and faithful servant,” with the grace adoration of a good good father can still be our God despite age and knowledge.
The God I knew and adored when I was seven, That God that this child knew and adored, that IS my God, and that IS your God, no matter how time has shaped your faith in him.
What a take away from such tragedy. That man who welcomed her home, the same man whom I adored as a child, is still my God, and there is nothing in age that can or will ever change that.
As I sit here and imagine this child running into the arms of her savior, along with every other life that my small childhood community has bid farewell to prematurely in the past few years, I can only believe that I am not excluded from unique and childlike experience whenever my time arrives.
Why not meet God back at the place in my heart where he once lived. Nothing is stopping me from seeking him with the childlike faith I was once so familiar with, and I don’t see any reason for any person with the ability to love a God so good and faithful could not return to this faith as well.
So that’s become a mission for me, and I encourage you to make it a mission of your own. Dig through the grime that has built upon your faith through the years. Dig through the lies and the corruption that has taken rest in your life, and find that faith of the child pushed deep down inside of you.
When my time comes I hope to sprint through those heavenly gates and into the arms of my dear friend, Jesus Christ, with the same innocence and freedom that I am sure young Kayleigh experienced yesterday morning at 10:05.
I hope the same for you, friends.