My 5-year old son, Jacob, asked me the other day if we can really get to Heaven. “Is it a place we can actually get to?” He asked. We do a bit of traveling as a family, so this question makes sense coming from him. He hears so much about going to Heaven at Church, so Jacob’s wondering if we can hop a train to get there. Or take the car, more likely.
My response kind of surprised me, and upon reflection, showed me how far this journey has taken me.
“Some say Heaven is already here, Son. One teacher once said, ‘All the way to heaven is heaven, because Jesus said, ‘I am the way.’’” (St. Catherine of Siena) *This would make a fantastic meditation for a Camino Pilgrim!
The look on Jacob’s face made me realize this wasn’t quite the answer he was looking for. So then I said, “Jesus said that the Kingdom of Heaven is within you and me.” (Luke 17:21)
“In me?” Jacob queried, pointing at his chest with a bewildered look on his face.
I got down on his level and asked, “Jacob, do you know how fruit grows on trees? Remember when we were in California visiting Uncle Tony and Mom wanted to pick that lemon off the tree? Yeah? Well, where was the lemon before it was full size on the tree?”
I love my son. He thought about this for like 3 seconds and then excitedly answered, “It was inside the tree!” Then he went on to tell me how trees grow from seeds, which was quite a vivid description. Apparently, he’s been listening when I talk.
“That’s it, Son. Exactly! The Kingdom of Heaven is like that inside you.”
“So we’re like a tree?” (Luke 13:18-19)
“Yes. Jesus said that He is the vine and we are the branches, and if we stay connected to Him, we will bear much fruit. That fruit is the Kingdom of Heaven here on Earth; here, now, today. It’s how we live our lives like Jesus, how we treat each other, how we choose love over fear or anger.” (John 15:5 & 9-12)
It get’s even better.
After thinking about all this for a moment, Jacob got a wild idea. “What if God got all His things (I think he meant angels) together and brought them down here and they were everywhere and they become…gods!” (He said, “gods,” in almost a whisper.)
Who wants to wait for spiritual fruit to grow when you can just invade with an army of angels, right? Apparently, the Gardener does.
“Jacob, what if God did that with you?”
“Yeah. What if God put His Holy Spirit within you so you, too, could become the Word made Flesh, and you could live like Jesus and be God here on earth? What if the Holy Spirit is growing the Kingdom of Heaven within you right now so that your life could be part of the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth today?”
I was blessed with the way in which my son seemed to absorb all that we spoke of together with excitement and understanding. I was equally blessed with the way I was able to absorb all we spoke of together. The simplicity of the conversation was enlightening even to me, and I think being able to put all this into words simple enough for a 5-year old to understand did something to clear the clutter in my own mind.
I listen to a lot of podcasts, read a lot of books, and foment a lot of words onto the page. My son helped me cut through it all to a clear center. A hopeful center that was easy to delight in. I hope he does the same for you and would love to hear your thoughts.
My reference to Luke 13:18-19 is a link to The Contemplative Life blog that I came across while writing this post. It’s a beautiful, simple reflection on this same topic, the Kingdom of Heaven growing like a tree, flowering among us. It’s a quick, enlightening read, and I hope you’ll enjoy it, too.
Blessings, my friends.