Heaven is for Real, by Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent, approx 150 pgs
The subtitle for this book reads, “A little boy’s astounding story of his trip to heaven and back.”
That’s not really accurate, though. This book is really the story of two parents dealing with their son’s–and their own–ineffable experience.
In short, during a medical crisis at the age of 4, the parents (a pastor and his wife) later discover that their son apparently made a three-minute trip to heaven, where he interacted with deceased relatives, and also Jesus.
The book is an extremely quick read, with short chapters and approachable language. Most people who borrowed my copy of the book read it in a single day.
Upon completing it, my question simply is: so what? Or, now what? Having read the account of this family’s journey of trying to understand the indescribable, what do we do with this experience that we have had in reading it?
Definitively determining the veracity of this account is impossible. It may seem credible enough: a pastor, a young boy–neither of which seem to have a strong motivation to perpetuate an elaborate hoax. The pastor regularly works to reconcile his son’s account with the words of the Bible.
It seems to me that if we have to determine whether or not this story is true before we allow it to impact us, we might as well not have read it to begin with. As with most movies and novels, they are not strict depictions of reality, and yet they impact us nonetheless, inspiring thought, contemplation, reflection.
The author’s own aim is simply this: “The best we can do is tell you what happened to us, and hope that you find it encouraging…” (p.149). Talking with one person who read the book, and asking her about its effect on her, she said simply, “It gives you something to look forward to.”
Of course, the Bible itself mentions heaven and describes a few features of it, but the Bible is often accused of being written for another people, of another time, and as a result, it can be hard to connect it with the lives we live today.
And so perhaps this book meets a need, forming a bridge between our modern experience and eternal truth. Sadly, reading the Bible does not always prompt us to contemplate and consider the things of eternity. Unfortunately, we don’t always invest the time and energy to connect ourselves personally with the stories and truth that are portraited in Scripture. And so we need a little help.
Perhaps this book is an opportunity for us to consider what we often overlook. Perhaps it is a chance to find a personal connection to revelation which feels ancient and mystical. Heaven is for Real certainly isn’t a replacement for the Bible, but it may be a chance to think about the things of the Bible–the questions of what happens when we die and who God is and what His love means. In that respect, whether you accept the Bible or not, Heaven is for Real may be a helpful read. The few short minutes necessary to flip through its pages will easily yield the chance for some worthwhile personal reflection.
So, whether this little boy had an experience or not, whether he was able to accurately describe it or not, whether his parents were accurately able to interpret it and capture it or not, Heaven is for Real is a chance for us to approach the themes of eternity in a way that seems a little more familiar, a little more relevant. Hopefully, it will turn us to consider the things that are universal and ancient as well, and in that regard, at least it’s a start.