What's in your heart?
(Randomly before bed)
5 yo: Can we see in heaven?
Me: Oooh, great question. What do you think?
5 yo: I don't know.
Me: Well, there's a line in the Bible that says right now we can only see God dimly, like, not very well, but someday we will see God face to face. So maybe we can see in some way in heaven. But until then, we can see God in other people. God is everywhere.
5 yo: Yeah, like God could be right beside that door right now!
Me: Well, that's true, God is everywhere. But we also see God in other people, in how they act toward us and other people.
5 yo: But we can't see inside their hearts to see if God's there.
Me: Ah, well, but we can look at their actions. That might show us what's in their hearts.
5 yo: Maybe.
This is the second Bedtime Theology chat where my child asked if we can see in heaven. It must be on his mind. I just wrote about this last month. For those of us who are sighted, we often rely heavily on our eyes. But we can't see what's in the heart, says my 5-year-old. Or can we?
I suggested to my child that our outward actions can show what's in our hearts. He wasn't sure whether to believe me and his skepticism is wise beyond his years. Do "good actions" correspond with a "good heart?" Is every good deed motivated by a pure heart? Do we sometimes do good despite the brokenness in our hearts? Life is complicated. How do we really know what's in the heart? Can we recognize what's in the heart of someone else? Or our own?
It has been my experience that people who have God in their hearts often do amazingly kind and loving things. It has been my experience that people who would not claim to have God in their hearts often do amazingly kind and loving things. So often, church members will show up for each other in hard times. But sometimes they don't. A church-going friend once suffered a major medical crisis and felt that her non-church friends showed up for her more than her churchy ones. When I commented that some folks from her church had sent her "Get Well" cards, she replied, "I can't eat a card."
Maybe the love of God takes up residence in some hearts in stealth, squatting there, unheeded. If God is love and someone shows you pure love, it doesn't depend on whether that person calls it God's love. Love is God. God is love. The love of God is always bigger and more expansive than our attempts to give it a name or a zip code.
Parenting articles tell you to help children give things a name, because sometimes they don't have the words. Such as: "I see your tears, you're sad." Or: "You couldn't get that toy, are you frustrated?" When we see the love of God in someone, we can name it. Children may not realize the love of God flows through them. Sometimes grownups don't either. We need each other to call it out, to help us see how we've shown someone else a big God-like love.