Monday, February 20, 2012

Eyes On The Other Side

Recently I read the NY Times Bestseller "Heaven is for Real" by Todd Burpo.
A lot of my family and friends had read this book so my curiosity finally got the better of me. (Thanks for letting me borrow your copy Steph!)

I was a bit skeptical about this book due to the 10 second synopsis I knew prior to reading it: a young boy supposedly goes to heaven and comes back able to recount his experience on "the other side". Really? How could this be? "That's impossible," I thought. Throw in the fact that his dad, Todd and the author of the book, is a pastor and my suspicion flag was flying high and proud.

For those of you who don't know, the book chronicles the young life of Colton Burpo, a spunky 3 year old boy who loves super heros and swords. Typical.

While on a family vacation, Colton becomes violently ill and is hospitalized. After quite a kerfuffle (my new favorite word by the way. Yes, "antler" and "marzipan" have been dethroned on my word list) Colton is finally diagnosed with a ruptured appendix as his tiny life hangs in the balance. While in surgery, Colton has a very vivid spiritual experience in heaven unlike any other, but according to the hospital documents, Colton never died and his heart never stopped beating. After the surgery... and then actually after a second unexpected surgery, Colton miraculously improved, his wounds healed, and he resumed his normal boyish life.

A few months later, while the family was passing by the hospital where Colton's surgery happened, the family started to discuss those dark days and Colton's time spent there.

And that's when he said it.
Colton, an innocent, average 3 year old child casually busts out with, "That's where the angels sang to me."


I can only imagine how his parents, Todd and Sonja, felt after hearing the very first detail of his experience and how those words must still ring in their ears today. As they asked more questions, Todd and Sonja began to realize something extremely extraordinary and real had happened to their son weeks prior as Colton shared shocking details and descriptions of a time spent in heaven...with Jesus.

Over the next couple years, Todd and Sonja continued to casually ask Colton open-ended questions about his experience and deal with the new heavenly perspective that changed the way he saw the world forever. I have no idea how his parents had the self-control to not bombard him with questions everyday until sucking every tiny detail out of him right after he dropped that "angels sang to me" bomb, but they did. Maybe it was because he was so small, maybe it was because his attention span was only so long, or maybe that's really just all the supernatural info they could process.

For Colton, things were simple. He knew what he saw, he knew who he was with, and he knew things he could not have possibly known without actually being in heaven. It was very black and white. He recounted details of meeting a miscarried sibling who he never knew about prior, had conversations with a great-grandfather who had passed away 25 years before his own birth, knew how Jesus looked, where Jesus sat, what angels carried, where his parents were exactly during his surgery, and much more.

The book and Colton's experience is definitely fascinating to me. Do I believe it's true? I don't know. My jaded eyes refuse to have the wool pulled over them and that prevents me from making a definitive decision. However, I do know that the book does:
  • exalt the name of Jesus
  • acknowledge that the only way to heaven is through believing that Jesus is God's son and that he came to earth and died for our sin (John 3:16)
  • match the scripture's descriptions of heaven (which is pretty crazy considering it came from a child who had never heard those details or knew those descriptions)
  • present God, Jesus, and heaven in a peaceful, loving, happy way and Satan as something unspeakable
To me, one of the most fascinating aspects of the book is Colton's description of Jesus and Jesus's "pretty" eyes. Over the course of a few years, Todd and Sonja would ask Colton what Jesus looked like. Every time they came across a picture, painting, or drawing of Jesus, they'd ask,  "Is this right?" or "What's wrong with this one?" since none of them seemed to be right based on Colton's encounter. It was always something - the hair, the eyes, nothing matched the Jesus Colton met in heaven.

That is, not until he saw Akiane Kramarik's painting titled "Prince of Peace." Akiane is a child prodigy who started drawing at age 4 after having a life-changing spiritual transformation of her own. Raised in a atheist household, Akiane all of a sudden began expressing things about God, Jesus, and beyond that she had no exposure to prior to her visions and dreams. This supernatural experience radically changed her family as well as the course of her life - now a world-reknowned artist, poet, author, and more. And I think she's like...only 17 now. :)

While in Atlanta, I stumbled across Akiane's biography at a friends house (ironic) and began flipping through, marveling at her work.
Paintings completed at age 6
Painting completed at age 9
Painting completed at age 10
Self-portrait, age 11
At age 8, Akiane painted "Prince of Peace" (pictured below) which is a portrait of Jesus. 
Akiane's progression of "Prince of Peace." I think it's interesting she started with the eyes.
When Todd was told about Akiane and her painting, he casually showed it to Colton and asked what he thought of it. After much silence and staring, Colton confidently announced, "It's him. It's right."

How incredibly odd, yet shockingly beautiful at the same time. Two children from different families, in different parts of the country, never meet, both claim to have had spiritual experiences with Jesus in heaven, and both visualize him in the exact same way. What are the odds?!

I don't know about you, but I like this painting of Jesus. I find it to be quite moving and see such comfort in His eyes. I hope these children are right and this is exactly how he looks. After all, Jesus does love the little children, so it's very fitting that they'd be the ones to get it right.

Read "Heaven is for Real" and let me know your thoughts! Personally, I hope it's true and that a ray of light is shed on a few of our unanswered questions about heaven through Colton's little life.  

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