Those were the words of Abby, my 4-year-old girl, the other night. “I don’t want to go to heaven.” Yes, she is enslaved to sin at this early age. Yes, she is sincere in her words. And the why is not that much different from many adults today.
In her mind, to go to heaven would mean to be apart from her mommy and daddy, the people whom she loves the most. When shopping, Abby will stay close by, almost underfoot, while her 2-year-old sister wanders on her own into the employee-only area. Abby trusts us and loves us; she even tries to help and serve us. There is no one she’d rather be around. And so, the other night, we’re sitting on the bed, and I’m praying with her, asking God that she would come to know her sin and rebellion towards God, and live faithfully and fully for Him. And after I say amen, she tells me that she doesn’t want to go to heaven; she wants to stay here with us.
What adult doesn’t sometimes feel this way?! We love people here – our spouse, our kids, our family and friends. They are precious to us. They are known to us. There are times when you want to be here: you want to get married, to see the birth of your child, to walk your daughter down the aisle. So many special occasions can lure you to desire earth more than heaven. It can be difficult to be excited about going to be with God when you’ve never seen him. There can be questions that nag at you – wondering if being with Him can really be better than being with your loved ones here. Abby could not imagine heaven to be more desirable than life here with Mom and Dad.
Now if I were to tell her that we would be in heaven and we want her to be with us, she would quickly want to go to heaven. The problem though is that we would live on as her true idol and love. Her desire for heaven would be rooted in a desire to be with us. So instead, Abby and I talk about how heaven is where God is and how much better life with him is than life with Mom and Dad. We want her to want to be with God more than she wants to be with us.
And that’s really the core issue for us all — you want to be with those who’re precious, known and beloved by you. If you don’t long to be with God in heaven, then you should ask, “How well do I know God?” and “Is he precious to me?” Where does God rank in your list of things/people you can’t do without? Where does time with God rank in that list?
That night, Abby decided that it’d be okay to go to heaven so long as it wasn’t for a long, long time. (Big smile from Dad.) But that’s okay – parenting is a process and God is in charge of her heart. It will be some years still until she really gets the gospel. We just want to keep laying the right foundation.
If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ was not there? — John Piper, God is the Gospel