Cloudy, with a Chance of Heaven
The kitchen felt sticky hot. I pulled the cakes from the oven in anticipation of the three year old’s birthday. A strand of hair fell across my forehead and stuck there. I brushed it absently, glancing out the window. It was three in the afternoon. And it was dark. A storm was coming.
Toys decorated the back yard. I went out to gather in the deep summer harvest of random socks, nerf guns, and fly swatters (why not?) that graced the lawn. The air was heavy and silent. Creation was holding its breath. Maybe God was too.
I pulled the curtain off the entrance of the boys’ secret hideout among the cedars (don’t tell them I told you). Pregnant raindrops started to land heavily on the pavement, fat with the promise of more. I ran inside to shake the older children from their stupor intense concentration on a Star Wars Lego computer game. The lawnmower should be inside. I needed backup. Big drops spattered the engine as I lurched forward on the ungainly beast of a riding mower. Two children watched and directed as I attempted to line up the wheels on the planks that would get the machine over the step down into the basement. Twice I tried. Both attempts stuck the mower deck fast on the threshold. Rain fell more urgently.
Finally I admitted defeat. I backed up and parked the puttering machine back where I had found it. Hail smacked my shoulders and head as my oldest and I threw a tarp over the beast, fighting the wind to tuck it down. Then we ran inside, suddenly soaked and breathless. I commanded the mind-numbing zombie-making computer screen be turned off. Four pairs of eyes refocused on the windows. We watched the sheets of rain turn the road into a river. Thunder cracked and shook the atmosphere. Lightning sliced through the dark sky. The lights flickered.
The two littlest woke from their naps crying. Downstairs, we pulled out ice cream cones in the still-humid hot living room. I opened our current read aloud to the next chapter and raised my voice above the insistent storm. We stopped briefly when it sounded like a jolt of electricity stuck something close by; everyone rushed to the windows to study the closest trees. We gazed in awe at the intensity and power surrounding us.
I droned on for half an hour. Ice cream smeared across my arm. The storm abated. Soon, sunlight pierced through the breaking clouds. The boys glanced at the windows, searching for rainbows. As the ice cream hit their bloodstream, everyone got restless. The toddler stood on the sofa and bounced, sending sticky drips everywhere. Someone sat on someone else and a wrestling match ensued. I kept raising my voice to finish the chapter until I had to admit defeat. Again. Everyone was sent to their respective corners to regroup. I opened windows and let the cool clear air push into the sticky house. It was twenty degrees cooler than it had been an hour ago. The washed air smelled of fresh cut grass and warm dirt. I breathed in deep and went to start supper.
After we survived mealtime, the boys spilled outside to run it off. I left the smashed potatoes to dry on the table and joined the five year old on the porch. Mist rolled across the back yard in silent wisps. I patted my son’s head. “Hey, don’t break my mohawk!” He remonstrated me. I apologized and shaped the sweaty damp locks back into a blonde point.
We watched the brothers chase each other, screeching and blaming each other for tripping in the damp grass. The toddler chose a puddle and sat down decisively, immediately saturating his clean diaper. Blue chalk decorated several rungs of the deck. Even the hard rain hadn’t totally cleaned it off. I was trying to silence the busy-mom-voice in my head that was commanding I turn around and attend to the congealed potatoes, when a little voice echoed over my internal argument.
“Mom, why does heaven take so long?”
Busy mom went silent. My mind searched wildly for wise mom, who always seemed to hide when I needed her. I’d wondered myself. Buying time to get wise mom to appear, I prodded for more. “What do you mean, honey?”
“I’ve been waiting for heaven a long time. When do we get to go?”
I smiled slightly. He was 5 years old. I remembered his birth like yesterday. And suddenly here he was, sitting in a shiny wheelchair, asking hard questions in a well-spoken, shrill voice. But 5 years is a long time to not walk…
Finally honest mom surfaced. (When wise mom hides, she’s a willing sub. Wish I chose her more often over blabbering-idiotically-mom!)
“I don’t know, Ben. Waiting is always hard for me too.”
My heart ached. We watched the boys run. Past conversations about heaven drifted through my mind as the fog rolled across the field, softening the blades of grass, till it was hidden under the cool blanket. We have often said that in heaven, my colorblind son will see brighter colors there than those of us with “normal” eyes ever could here. Heaven will be “more real” than the best our senses can do to experience earth, and our abilities will be far stronger when they’re unfettered by commotion, distraction, pollution, germs, stress, and biological imperfections. Ben will run faster than anyone ever could on earth. It will be awesome. I wished he didn’t have to wait for awesome.
“God makes each of us a little different, some a lot different, because we each have a different job to do before we go to heaven. He has big plans for you. I know He does…”
Honest mom sounded lame. I wished I could give him some assurance that God does what is best, and what is best is usually hardest. But try explaining that to a five year old. I admitted defeat for the third time. And hugged him. “I’m glad you’re here right now.” He patted my back reassuringly and slid out of his wheelchair. He crawled to the ramp up to the trampoline where he jumped on all fours, sending the toddler with a sagging diaper bouncing amidst fits of baby giggles.
He is waiting. We hold our breath, knowing there are storms on the horizon. Half a dozen times since Saturday, he has asked me, “Why am I like this?” and I give reasons. But it’s hard, in the heat of the moment, to accept them. So we brace to weather the storms. I hope I can shelter him through some of them. In them he might be scared, but he can also experience the power of God in his life. I don’t want to be so distracted by the fly swatters, and video games, and cold potatoes, that I miss awe and wonder hidden in the cloudy days.
The clear air after the rain will be worth the wait.