Last night we watched a movie called “Heaven is for Real.” It was controversial, but interesting. The film chronicles the story of Colton Burpo who, at the age of three years old, fell severely ill and came close to dying. While in that near-death state, Colton claims to have had a supernatural experience in which he visited heaven. Colton supports his claim with remarkably convincing evidence that heaven is, indeed, for real.
Before seeing the movie, I had previously read the “Heaven is for Real” book upon which the movie is based. I was captivated by the book’s account of Colton’s tales which he supposedly brought back from heaven. Colton accurately reported facts previously unknown to him about situations that had occurred here on earth. These were about circumstances and people of which he knew nothing; yet, he was able to speak with authority about them.
It was mystifying and exhilarating all at the same time….the thought of someone having visited heaven and coming back to planet earth to tell us about it. Wow! That’s heavy stuff!!! You can imagine that I was enthusiastically looking forward to the film version; nevertheless, I was extremely disappointed at how much the spiritual aspect of the story was watered down in the movie. I’m not surprised, though….that’s Hollywood (generally unwilling to touch the subject of God in a solid Biblical manner). But, in this blog, Rebecca and I are not hesitant to talk about God. We strongly believe in the reality of God. And, yes, we believe heaven is for real (unfortunately, so is hell, but that topic is for another time).
In my mind, whether or not Colton Burpo was actually transported to heaven is somewhat in question. In the book, Colton maintains that he walked in heaven with Jesus. As compelling as his stories about Jesus are, there is no way to actually verify Colton’s claims. On the other hand, Colton certainly supplies the reader with strong proof that, while in heaven, he spent time with his grandfather (whom he had never met), and that he had an encounter with his sister (a child whom his mother had miscarried years earlier). Colton had no prior knowledge of the baby’s existence.
So, did Colton visit heaven? I honestly don’t know for sure, but I think so. What I definitely believe, though, is that Colton had a powerfully supernatural experience in which he was able to see heaven, Jesus, angels and family members who have passed on. And, the narrative of the “Heaven is for Real” book presents a clear-cut visual of it all. For me, this was an absolutely potent set of experiences which further confirmed to me God’s existence, as well as His heavenly habitat.
Also worth mentioning here is the profoundly inspiring message in the movie’s subplot. This part of the story centered around Colton’s father, Todd, a Christian pastor. Throughout the ordeal of his son’s illness, and in the subsequent stories Colton told about visiting heaven, Todd’s faith was severely tested. All this new information propelled Todd into questioning many things about his faith.
During this time of testing, Todd had difficulty fulfilling his duties as a pastor. He decided to take a leave of absence from his job rather than transfer his confusion over to his flock. In the end, Todd’s faith in God grew much stronger; but that difficult period put him at odds with some of the board members of his church, who had also been his long time friends.
One of the board members was particularly angry with Todd for speaking out publicly about heaven. She was so outraged that she attempted to have Todd permanently removed from his pulpit at their church. Initially, it was not clear in the movie exactly why this woman was so mad at Todd. We learn the answer during a scene which takes place at the cemetery where the woman’s son had been buried the previous year. He had been killed while serving overseas in the U.S. military. Todd had been anonymously placing flowers on the son’s grave since the funeral.
Unexpectedly bumping into each other at the son’s grave, Todd and the woman had a confrontation over their conflict. When the woman learned that it had been Todd who had been placing flowers on her son’s grave for the previous year, she immediately softened towards him. This opened the door for them to talk out their differences. Todd treated the woman with extraordinary patience, and was able to learn that their differences arose out of Todd’s constant questions about Colton’s heavenly visits. This had unknowingly sent the woman into a panic because she didn’t know if her son was in heaven or not.
Basically, the woman just wanted Todd to be quiet about the whole issue. That way she wouldn’t have to feel so conflicted. Yet, needing to work this all out in his heart, Todd could not remain silent. All the while, the woman behaved badly to Todd because of her fears about her son. We can all easily relate to her pain.
After they reconciled, the woman apologized to Todd for persecuting him during his time of need. By understanding the woman’s brokenness over her son’s death, and by realizing the blessing that his own son had been spared, Todd’s response was to immediately forgive her. He lovingly told her that she never had to apologize for her broken parts because we all have them. It was such a tender moment. I mention it because Todd’s reaction to this woman was such a wonderful example of unconditional love.
This story demonstrates the power of unconditional love. It’s important to love others well, so that we can feel safe enough to reveal our broken parts to one another. Personally, we aren’t responsible to heal those damaged parts. God will accomplish that when we allow Him to come into the center of our brokenness. But, we can love each other unconditionally through those tough times, as Todd did with the board member. I know….sometimes it’s very hard to do so. But, it can open the door to healing in relationships.
U Love calls for us to be patient and kind to one another. It’s never proud or self seeking. It keeps no record of wrongs. It rejoices in the truth. And, please always remember, U Love never fails!!!
See you all back here next week for another discussion about U Love! Please join our U Love chain here!