We heard the announcement a few months ago.
Texts and emails began flying through cyberspace.
“Wouldn’t it be fun to surprise her? What date will work? Can we fit it in between birthdays, graduations, international trips?”
A date was selected and reservations were made.
She still had no clue. No idea that we planned to take her to her favorite musical in her five years of living. Favorite to the point of knowing the words to all the songs. Singing along with the DVD or the CD version on a weekly, if not daily, basis.
But three months is a long time when one is four and a big sister for the first time. So we waited to tell her.
Her birthday was exciting: breakfast with Grandma and Grandpa, treats to preschool, Pizza Hut with the other grandparents, performing in her first piano recital, a store-bought decorated birthday cake. Enough excitement for one day!
The date for the musical was coming closer. But she was anticipating time with her “aunties” at graduation and her “spa” birthday party with three friends. The surprise almost gets “spilled” but we make a quick recovery.
But soon there are no other adventures to wait for. And so we tell part of it. “You’ll spend some time with your ‘aunties.’”
“You’ll really like the surprise.”
One night I receive a phone call. “Grandma, what is my surprise? Mommy says that you can tell me now.”
As I begin to tell her, the tears begin. “I want it to be a surprise, but I want to know, too!”
We wait a few more days. The time for the surprise is just 72 hours away when she decides that she is ready to know.
So we reveal the name of the musical.
Disappointment on her face, “But I’ve seen it two times in person.”
“Oh, Sweetie, you haven’t seen it this way. Just trust us.”
The day arrives. The three hour journey begins. We play the DVD to pass the time and prime our expectation. Yet she is flat, with no eagerness or anticipation.
Until we arrive!
The marquee captures her attention. As we enter the theater, her eyes widen. She scans the program and draws our attention to some of the photos. When the Master of Ceremonies welcomes the guests and wishes her a happy birthday, she is enthralled.
The action begins and I’m torn between watching the production or gazing at her, mesmerized, in awe of the costumes, the dancing, the music. Even at intermission, she gently says, “I’m not talking about it until it is over.”
Following the last cast call, she finally relaxes and declares, “It was totally AWESOME!”
It was then that I realized that she couldn’t anticipate this because she had never experienced anything like it before. But she trusted us.
Am I like that when I think of heaven? We have descriptions in Revelation 21 but most of us can’t imagine anything like it. Even when we hear descriptions from those who have had a glimpse, we still can’t picture it in our mind.
Don Piper, author of “90 minutes in Heaven” didn’t talk about his welcome in heaven until two years later because he thought people would think he was mentally off. “Heaven is For Real” is Colton’s innocent child-like explanation of things that could not have been known any other way than by a “real” visit in heaven.
As I learned from my granddaughter, it is hard to look forward to something we’ve not experienced. Even with glimpses in Scripture and shared experiences like those of Don Piper and little Colton, I can’t get totally excited. What I know about life is here, and most days, that is good enough.
But when I have a day filled with bad news, or negative attitudes, or things that don’t go according to plan, or I deal with the health concerns of aging loved ones, I can reflect on what is coming. This world is not my surprise or my eternal home.
And as I grow to love the Savior more deeply and learn to sing “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain,” I’ll be primed to experience heaven in the fullest and richest way.