I always tell people that Kara and my son have a very special friendship. Which kind of makes me laugh, because I think Kara has very special friendships with everyone. You can’t be her friend and not feel extra special for it. But Von and Kara do love each other richly and speak each other’s language.
When we first met Kara, Von was just weeks old. He had been a NICU baby, and this was the first time I had taken him out. I was feeling super vulnerable and protective, wearing him wrapped tightly against me. Kara asked to hold him—she said it was so I could eat dessert, but I could see from the twinkle in her eye that she was a lover of babies. So I carefully unwrapped him and handed my treasured boy to this stranger.
I don’t know how else to describe the bond between them. Well, I do—it was God, not magic, yet sometimes it feels that way. Kara has been a sister to me, but more important to my heart is how she has loved my children, especially my boy. She has her own spectacular boy so she automatically knew how to love Von well in a way that makes an impact on his heart.
And boy, does Von love Kara. He talks about her every single day. He prays for her every night. He talks about the times they’ve shared and how fun her house is and how fun her kids are. He has never been bothered by her illness or hair loss, and the first time he visited her in the hospital, he braved wires and tubes and nurses to climb up in that hospital bed to snuggle with her and receive the squeaky kisses only Kara is allowed to give him.
It is because of this unusual and powerful love that my husband and I have felt prompted to start talking to Von about Heaven. About how we are all going to go there someday. And about how Kara will likely go first if God doesn’t heal her this side of Heaven. We tell him that someday, Jesus will tell Kara it’s time for her to go live with him, and when she does, Jesus will heal Kara and make her all better. Kara will never be sick again and she won’t have to be in bed and she can run and jump and play. Von always gets a big smile on his face and sometimes yells out in happy anticipation.
Talking to a not-quite-three-year-old about Heaven has challenged me. We’ve always tried to have an eternal perspective in our home, dreaming about Heaven together on a daily basis. But explaining it to my small child so that he has some kind of context for what is happening to his favorite person causes me to confront my own beliefs: Do I really, truly believe that Jesus will heal us? Do I believe that Heaven will be fun and full of laughter, free from broken relationships and tears, full of adventures and sweet reunions, healed of scars and bitterness, filled with beauty and banquets?
I think I do. Or am starting to. The more we talk, the more real it becomes to me. Von has started dreaming on his own: “When we wive wif Jesus, we will pway moosis [music] together. Me pway dwums, Papa pway guitar, Mama sing, Jesus pway bass, and Kara pway keyboard.” In his own little brain, he has caught a vision of perfection and joy. His excitement is contagious and I find myself dreaming my own dreams of Heaven—seeing Kara and catching up, introducing my parents to my children, scheduling a coffee date with Ruth Graham, meeting our nephew and my friend’s twins whom we never met on earth. And crawling up into my Heavenly Father’s lap so he can once and for all wipe away my tears.
This dreaming is bittersweet and the instruction I try to give Von is imperfect, like today when we were headed to Kara’s; reminding Von that Kara might not feel up to a visit, he said, “That’s okay, Mama. Me always hoo [here] for Kara.”
I was tearfully reminded that Jesus is the one who is always here for us. That he is walking this hard road with us. That the harder life gets, the more grace Jesus gives and the tighter he holds us. As we suffer and struggle and wrestle, and as we find ourselves in dark and scary places, we also find the beauty of God’s tender love for us. He is not absent and he is not silent. He calms the raging oceans of fear in our hearts with the promise of his arms wrapped around us, hope incarnate. Suffering is an invitation to be enveloped in God’s embrace and comforted by his love.
My heart is calmed by God’s promise from Isaiah 43:
Do you believe in the promise of God’s presence and of Heaven? What do you look forward to the most about going there? Who can you encourage today with the ultimate promise of restoration in Christ?