“So, Mom, where is Heaven anyway?” Evan asked his mom.
Doing the best she could to explain it to a five-year-old without scaring him, she told him it was in the clouds close to the sun, a beautiful place where everyone went eventually. However, Evan is smart enough to realize that it is not just old people who go to Heaven.
His round blue eyes grew even larger and began to glisten with the hint of a tear, and he sadly looked up at her as his lips quivered. “But Mom, I sure don’t want to go there unless you’re there, too. I’ll miss you too much.”
Every parent has faced this or a similar question about where God and Heaven are, and it can be hard to answer. My daughter texted me, unsure of what and how to respond, and I had to think quickly. I’ve never believed Heaven to be a golden place glistening in the clouds but rather a different dimension that’s all around us. That’s a difficult concept to explain to a five-year-old as well as to a teen, especially when faced with the adolescent cynicism stemming from all their knowledge and technical prowess. It’s also difficult to convince them that there is anything in existence beyond their I-pods and tablets. That’s their reality. Heaven is like Plato’s cave analogy. Plato states that if you were on a ledge and only had shadows to see as your reality, that world of shadows would become your reality,and you would be unaware of the world beyond.
Using the metaphor of a butterfly, a good explanation is that the caterpillar climbs on a stem and believes that’s his world, and the birds and other bugs all around are aware of his presence. In fact, anyone who can see the caterpillar knows he’s there on the branch.
Soon, the time comes for the butterfly to start spinning its cocoon and go to sleep for awhile, losing conscious awareness of his surroundings. While he’s sleeping, he’s slowly changing into a beautiful butterfly until he has grown too big for the cocoon, and he begins to emerge from his small room into the bigger world. Stretching his wings, he realizes he can now fly, and away he goes. The birds and bugs who had been aware of his presence can no longer see him because, since he now has wings, he can fly on the gentlest of breezes, out of sight of the others.
He might float for awhile on the wind currents when he comes to rest in a beautiful garden far away, where he drinks nectar until he decides to move on. The bugs and birds he left behind can no longer see him physically and probably assume he is gone, but he really isn’t, as we can explain to our youngster. He is simply in a better place where they are unable to go until they’re ready.
That’s what Heaven is like.