Sarah is at the age when monsters regularly come to visit her in the night. Piercing shrieks descend from the upper regions of the house each night like clockwork, precisely at 11:30. We've tried reassuring her, squirting a "safety zone" around her bed with "monster repellant" (holy water), talking about the guardian angel that sits beside her all night (that seemed to have the opposite of its intended effect). Now we just take turns lying beside her and singing her to sleep, resigning ourselves to the fact that, come 11:30, there will be one more body in our king-sized bed.
Tonight as I was going through the bedtime routine, Sarah peeped up from under the mountain of blankets she uses to shield herself from the scary noises. I asked her what song she wanted. "Jesus skates," she replied.
"I don't think I know that one," I told her. The closest thing I could think of was "No you can't get to heaven... on roller skates... 'cause you'll roll right by those pearly gates!" Sarah rolled her eyes. "NO, Mommy. JESUS skates."
"Sing it for me, Sarah." Eagerly she obliged with the second verse of "Jesus loves me."
"Jesus loves me, when He died, heaven skates will open wide..."
I smiled to think of Jesus welcoming his family at the Pearly Gates, shod in roller skates. And, frankly, I didn't see the point in correcting my daughter. I want her to think of heaven as a place of endless adventure and happiness ... a place where we all want to be one day.
Right now I have a friend who is looking at those gates, up close and personal, and praying that it is not her time to go through. She has an eight-year-old daughter she adopted when the girl was six. "I don't want to leave her," the mom tells me. "Why would God send her to me after all she's been through, only to take me away from her?"
The truth is that all earthly relationships are temporal ones, and the best we can hope for is a few years of grace and healing before heading for our final, heavenly home. But I know this mom, and I know this girl, and I reminded the mother that -- regardless of the outcome of her illness, her daughter is infinitely better off for having been a part of that family. Inevitably the monsters come -- that, too, is sadly a normal part of life. But we can go humming into the darkness soothed by the knowledge that we have boundless family -- some right beside us, holding our hands; others unseen but just as real.
How do I know? "The Bible tells me so."