Heaven is for Real is the true story of a little four year old boy who had the great privilege of visiting heaven… briefly. This little boy’s father, Todd Burpo, tells the story. Now there are a lot of stories of people who’ve had near death experiences, and they are all quite similar in nature. So much so that some folks in medicine have decided to say that what they have experienced is just the body’s manner of shutting down, a final release of the body’s own endorphins, things like that. Sometimes those in medicine just insist on explaining away the things of God.
I’d like to see them explain away the story of Colton Burpo.
I was drawn to this story for a number of reasons. The first being that Todd Burpo is a Wesleyan pastor. Wesleyans are just middle of the road, straightforward, no nonsense Christians. You don’t generally see a lot of sensationalism coming from the Wesleyans.
Second, it took them years to share any of this story outside of their own family. See? No sensationalism. It even took Colton, who was just four years old, a couple of years himself to tell it all. Generally, he had to be asked, or was just innocently making conversation, whenever the details of his journey came to light.
And third, my son is in heaven. I want to know everything I can about where he is. I don’t ever want to have doubts about that. If I had any before, I don’t now that I have read this book.
Yet his book answers more than the question, “Is heaven for real?”. It answers questions like, “Does God really hear us when we pray?”. I believed that he does, but I couldn’t help reflecting on an experience in my own life as I read the story.
Years ago, months before our youngest son was born, my husband was hospitalized. On that night, my seven year old son woke crying from a nightmare. My husband, who had been awake with a bad headache, said he would get up and go see about him. After several long moments, when he did not return, I went to see what was going on.
What I found was disturbing.
My husband was behaving oddly, looking out the window as if someone was out there. Then he’d tell us to be quiet, that everything was all right. He repeated this several times. My son told me he’d been doing that for the last ten minutes. I tried to address my husband, but he could not seem to stop repeating the same actions and words. I sent my son to my room, and grabbed my husband by the shoulders. It was at that point that he looked at me and told me his head was killing him.
At three in the morning after getting my husband dressed, I ran to my neighbor’s house and rang their doorbell. With my three kids safely in the care of neighbors, I drove my husband to the hospital. After several hours of tests, the doctors told me Matthew had encephalitis. Encephalitis is the swelling or inflammation of the brain. I asked the neurologist for a prognosis. I will never forget her words.
“If he recovers, it will take months for him to be normal again.”
After he was settled into the ICU, I drove the five minutes home to shower and check on our children. My wonderful neighbor, Sharon, had taken the day off to keep them. Thank God for her! On that trip home, I had it out with God. Here I was alone- we lived far from family, with three kids and one on the way, and we had just launched a brand new church two months prior! What was going on? How could God let this happen?! I am sure those driving alongside me that day thought I was out of my mind. I was shaking my fist, yelling, pleading.
Later that afternoon, I was sitting by Matthew’s bed in the ICU. Every few moments he’d wake up and I’d ask him who I was. (He hadn’t known me for hours) His response was always, “Uh huh, yea, I know.” And then he’d pass out again.
That is until he knew. I’ll never forget this. He woke up, I asked him who I was, and he looked at me as though I was insane. His response was, “You’re Stacey… my wife.” He said it in a tone that implied I was the crazy one.
I jumped up and in about thirty seconds told him all that had happened over the last twelve hours. I even included his poor prognosis. In retrospect that was not the kindest thing. He was slightly overwhelmed. So I ran out to the nurse’s station where the doctor was sitting and said, “He just woke up and wants to know what’s wrong with him.” She looked at me as if I had two heads. She jumped up and said, as she ran to the room, “Encephalitis patients don’t just wake up and start talking like that.” I said, “Well, he just did.”
The doctors and ICU nurses were amazed. They had never seen anything like it. He was awake, lucid, still in some pain, but his prognosis had just taken a turn for the better. Much better.
Todd Burpo thought he might lose his son. Colton had a ruptured appendix that had been misdiagnosed as stomach flu and therefore had not been treated for five days. By the time Colton was on the operating table, things were grim. Todd found a room at the hospital where he would not be seen, closed the door, and had it out with God. He ranted, raved, and pleaded for his son’s life. And he did it in private. No one knew. (A fact important for the book.)
But Jesus knew. And so did Colton. While his body was in surgery, he saw his father in that small room pleading for him. He was with Jesus when he saw. Yep. Sitting on his lap. And after a time, Jesus told Colton he was sending him back. That he was answering Colton’s dad’s prayer to give Colton back to him.
I know our prayers are heard. I believe in miracles. The day Matthew came back to me, there alone in the ICU, I received a miracle… an answer to a prayer. But to know that Jesus saw me pleading for him in my car that day, that he took pity on me and with a touch, or whisper, or whatever, gave Matthew back to me is more real for me now than it was when it happened.
I don’t know the Burpos. I’m not getting anything in return for recommending this book, but I promise it will bless you. Go buy the book, Heaven is For Real, and I promise your eyes will be opened and you’ll shed more than a few tears. Do you know someone who needs to see Jesus as an up close and personal God? Give them the book.