Seeing and believing
Bedtime Theology with the 5 yo...
(While watching online church)
5 yo: We will ever see Jesus here?
Me: Oh, like will we ever see Jesus here on earth?
5 yo: Yeah.
Me: What do you think?
5 yo: I don't know.
Me: Well, we will see Jesus in heaven.
5 yo: But I want to see him on earth.
Me: Did you want to ask him something or do something with him?
5 yo: I just want to see his body. I want to see what he looks like.
Me: We will have to see in heaven.
5 yo: But our eyes won't be well.
Me: What do you mean?
5 yo: Because we will be dead.
Me: Oh, well, God will make it so we can see when we get to heaven.
5 yo: Is that true?
Me: I believe it is.
Bedtime theology Monday morning quarterback here. Because instead of focusing on heaven, I wish I'd focused on earth. (At the end is what I wish I'd said, if you want to skip!)
Questions about heaven can lead to many tangents, most of them abstract, because none of us really knows what it is or where it is or how it is. To be honest, we don't know if it is. There's nothing to see, and seeing is how most of us operate.
My 5-year-old was fixated on seeing, too. He wanted to see Jesus, which echoes many stories in Scriptures. The Gospel of John, especially, has great parables and stories about people who see and people who don't, literally and metaphorically. There are several stories where Jesus heals those who are blind, including this one in John 9. Summary: a man born blind is healed by Jesus, the Pharisees investigate, the formerly blind man schools the Pharisees, they get mad, then Jesus says the Pharisees are blind. Who can truly see? Who is really blind? In John's gospel, the unlikely ones end up seeing Jesus for who He is.
I do think there is a way in which we will see God, but I don't know if we'll use our retinas. Perhaps seeing will be more like believing, or knowing. John's gospel explores the relationship between the two. To see is to believe, but just because you see, doesn't mean you believe. In the gospels, "belief" in Greek isn't generally a noun, or a thing you can possess. Rather, it's a verb, something you can do.
Because seeing and believing are things we do in our lives of faith, I think I could have focused the above theology chat on what we can see here on earth: other people.
Here's what I wish I'd said: We do see Jesus here on earth, we see Jesus in the face of each other, whenever we experience love and kindness. We see Jesus in those who tend the poor and act for justice. We see Jesus among those who orient their lives around God through prayer, worship and gratitude. And others see Jesus in us.
But it's okay. I'll be sure to say those things later to my children. The thing about talking theology with our children is that it's an ongoing conversation. I try not to stress when I don't get it "right" or how I wanted it to be on the first try. We'll just keep talking.