We all have moments in which we wish we had a Twix bar or two to shove in our mouths so we could buy some time on what to say (random 2000s pop-culture reference, I know). I had one of those moments today. I picked up my son from school at noon and was talking with him about getting lunch later at Qdoba, just the two of us. His school shares a building with a church, and as we were walking out he noticed a banner hanging on the wall with some words on it.
He asked, “What’s that sign say dad?”
I, like any parent of a new reader said, “I don’t know. Why don’t you read it?”
We stood there while he sounded out each word to himself. It was a verse from somewhere in the Bible, and I don’t remember what it said. Not surprisingly, the last word was God. Obi said, “I know God”. I said, “Oh yeah? Good.”
Then…the dreaded question came out of his mouth: “Dad, where is God?”
For most parents, this isn’t a difficult question. It’s not a Twix moment. Most people simply say, “He’s in heaven, son”, and assume that will work until much later in life. However, as I have written about on many occasions and have displayed on many more, I have an honesty problem. And, for me, to simply answer that God is in heaven doesn’t really cut to the heart of the truth.
Because, God isn’t just “somewhere out there”, far removed from us, sitting on a throne in the clouds,watching us. Heaven is a way of describing the realm in which God dwells. And, the fact is, that earth is packed full of heaven in so many ways. If I were to tell my son, who is 4, that God is in “heaven”, there’s no doubt he will start imagining a place called heaven that is different than the place called earth.
That’s not entirely true or false. We know that earth isn’t full of heaven per say, and we do pray that God’s kingdom will come on earth as it is in heaven. Any brokenness that there is in this world, whether its the vast number of people being murdered and displaced in Syria, or the family that just lost a mother, shows us that the fullness of heaven has not yet taken over.
However, we also know that anywhere we see love in action, anywhere we see beauty, anywhere we experience joy, we are indeed experiencing heaven. That’s God’s realm interacting with ours. That, indeed, is the tangible presence (glory) of God filling the earth. We pray that the earth will be filled with that glory.
Thankfully, when Obi asked me this question, we were standing in the middle of the stairs. I told him that we needed to get out of the way of everyone else, hence buying my time (and sticking the proverbial Twix bar in my mouth). When we got to the bottom of the stairs, I said, “God is everywhere”.
Now, to some of you this is not a perfect answer. I know that. It is just as misleading as saying that God is in heaven. Because, as I said, there are places that we know we sense the absence of God and not the fullness of him. Soldiers know that feeling, I’m told. I might have better said, “God is capable of being everywhere”, which would have been more true. Even in the darkest and ugliest places, God can show up in a loving action or a flower growing out of a pile of rubble.
If I had said, “God is in heaven”, I would likely then have to answer the follow-up question, “Where is heaven?”, and it’s partner, “What does heaven look like?” To answer those questions, I would have to do some real gymnastics to get the truth of the matter across to my 4 year old.
The most amazing thing happened when I said, “God is everywhere”. My son just said, “Oh”, and we went on to lunch. At lunch, I experienced God, through a game of I Spy, through finding shapes, and through just listening to my son talk about stuff. When we got home, I experienced the tangible presence of God again. I asked Obi to tell his mom where God is, and he replied, “He’s everywhere”.
Indeed, God is everywhere.