“Grandma, do you think Grandad is in heaven with Daddy?”
“Oh, sweet girl, come sit with me.”
So many questions from a six-year-old are easy.
“Grandma, can we have ice cream?”
“Grandma, why is the sky blue?”
“Grandma, can you give me an Elsa braid?”
This question? My answer was essential to this sweet child. My response was no longer the same as it had been twenty years ago. It isn’t even the same as it was five years ago. Years ago, I had deeply wounded people with my self-righteous answer to the same question. In my arrogance to dispense the “truth” of God’s word, I turned people away from God.
As I have traveled through the years, I am learning more about a God who loves us. Not a God who sits on his throne waiting to punish us.
“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9NIV)
For many years, I have responded to others because of my flawed humanity. I have been the judge and executioner. I sat on the judge’s bench as if I could see the heart of people. As if I was in charge of deciding who gets into heaven. “Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.” (Prov 16:18 NLT)
I have taken one verse in the scripture and made it the measuring stick for everything else. It says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whosoever believes in Him (Jesus) will have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
But we, you and me, have added many of our beliefs to how that has to happen. We have created our complicated formulas for reaching “I believe.”
It is God and God alone who knows our hearts. God reveals his character over and over throughout scripture.
Jesus washed Judas’ feet. Jesus still loved Peter, even when Peter denied him three times. Jesus still chose him to spread the Good News.
Even as Jesus hung on the cross dying, he accepted the criminal who asked Jesus to remember him when he got to his kingdom. Jesus did not give him a three-point plan to be redeemed. Instead, he said, “Truly, I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
The more I learn about Jesus, the more I understand his love and grace are ours without strings. He extends his nail-scarred hand. So join me, let’s go together. If we could see the realm where this world ends. Where Glory begins, where sorrow fades, and joy shines. As someone takes their last breath here, we can see a place outside time and space. We would catch a glimpse of a love the world cannot understand. We would see Jesus. Running with outstretched arms. “Come with me to paradise.”
I’ve learned God loves me with a love that doesn’t have a limit. There is no time stamp or even a formula to complete. Instead, he continually reaches out a hand to help me up, to wrap around me when I need comfort. A hand that always touches my face with forgiveness. His hand extends to everyone.
On this warm December day, I pull Audrey close. I wrap my arms around her and hold tightly to love. Then, as she looks up, I ask, “What do you think Grandad and Daddy are doing right now?”
“Oh, Grandma, they are probably deciding what kind of wax to use on Daddy’s new Pony!”