Millions of Rooms!
Millions of Rooms!
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God[a]; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am." John 14:1-3
We are enjoying the flickering flames from our new electric fireplace log when Allen, sitting on the couch with his father's hospital blanket around him, says, "I need to talk about Dad. But I need to find my words.
"Okay," I say and settle back into my chair. I ask no questions; I have learned to wait until Allen is ready to talk.
My son picks up a metal rod and begins to roll it between his palms, a technique that helps him to calm down. For a few moments, there is only the realistic sound of a crackling fire from the hearth. "The thing is," says Allen, "I know that Dad's not really over at the firehouse. I just like to tell myself he is because that means he's still close to us."
I nod. Allen, an adult with high-functioning autism, has come to terms with his father's recent death by using magical thinking, an anthropological concept that allowed him time to believe in his father's return until he was ready to accept the finality of death. We no longer look for Ron in parks or on baseball fields, but when Allen feels the need, he asks for a "Dad moment."
Allen continues."I know we're doing okay, you and me. We've found a way to live without...Dad." He gulps. "We're even happy. Right?"
"As Dad would want us to be," I say.
Allen agrees. "Yeah. So we're okay. But is Dad okay? Wherever he is and whatever he's doing, is he okay? Does he miss us? Is he sad?"
I want to reassure my son, this tall adult with a child-like faith, that of course his father is happy and well. But I struggle with my own words for a moment. What do I really KNOW about Heaven, the place my husband now resides?
Allen continues to roll the metal rod in his hands and I think back to the Last Supper. The disciples had come to celebrate the Passover with their Rabbi and were suddenly told that one of them would betray Him! And if that wasn't bad enough, Jesus would then leave them and go to a place where they could not follow (John 13:35), the same place where Allen cannot follow his father. I can well imagine the heart-sickness of the disciples. I remember the feeling when I knew Ron had gone on ahead of me to a place I could not yet go.
The words of John 14:1-3 were spoken, no doubt, to comfort the faithful friends of Jesus, to let them know that while he would be absent from them for a while, they would ultimately join Him. "Let not your heart be troubled," Jesus told them even though trouble was quickly approaching. How puzzled they must have been!
Perhaps as puzzled as my son, who sits with his father's hospital blanket wrapped around him, looking to me for answers that are both concrete and tangible, rolling a metal rod between his palms. I think of the many rooms Jesus spoke of, and I begin slowly.
"Tell me about your room," I tell Allen. "What do you keep in your room?"
He shrugs and looks at me quizzically, probably thinking I am changing the subject. Yet he responds. "Things that are important to me. Things I like. My swords. My games." His voice catches. "Dad's blanket. It's my place."
I nod. "And remember when Dennis would come home from college and take over your room? What happened then?"
Allen grins. "Dennis would put my stuff out in the hallway. I'd have to drag my sleeping bag into Bonnie's room. I didn't have a special place anymore."
"Exactly, " I say. "Remember last year when Dad couldn't climb the steps anymore and we had to put the hospital bed in the dining room?" Allen nods. "And we couldn't move everything Dad liked into the dining room. It wasn't really Dad's room."
"No. I guess not. The dining room stuff was still there. Poor Dad."
Allen has stopped rolling the rod between his hands and seems to be following my thinking, so I continue. "But there's a verse in John 14 that says in Heaven--the place where Dad lives now--there are lots and lots of rooms."
"Like at PopPop's house?"
"Even bigger," I say. "Millions of rooms. One for every person ever born."
My son's blue eyes widen. "Wow! So is there a special room there, just for Dad?"
"Absolutely. And God knew just what Dad would need in his special room to feel like it was his. God had it all ready for Dad when he left us in July. And when Dad got to Heaven, it was filled with things he loved. The verse goes on to say, 'I go to prepare a place for you.' Unlike the dining room, it was just for Dad."
Allen considers this for a moment and pulls the blanket closer. "I'm glad Dad has his own room now. But doesn't he miss us? Does he know we're okay?"
Those are hard questions. I only know what some scholars, such as Henry Aford and Billy Graham say. Hebrew 12:1 says "Since we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely, and then let us run with endurance the race that is set before us." I imagine the people in Heaven--my mother, my grandparents, my husband--cheering for us.
I tell Allen, "Yes. Dad knows we are doing well. He sees us all the time. And he doesn't miss us because he knows we will come to him. Time in Heaven is not like time here on earth. Dad is watching us and wanting us to live the best lives we can."
The metal rod remains set aside but something is still bothering Allen. I wait for him to speak again, content to be sitting in our cozy living room with the crackling sound of the electric fire.
"Well, I guess that's okay. I'm glad he has a room and all." Allen's voice holds disappointment. "I was just hoping that Dad was getting to do something exciting. Like being a fireman."
I smile. "Why would you think Dad would like to be a fireman?"
Allen shrugs. "Well, all Dad could do for the last couple of years was sit around and watch TV. Play Wii bowling with me once in a while when he was feeling okay. I think he was pretty bored. I'd like to think he had something exciting to do now."
I certainly do not know if there is a need for firemen in heaven, but I do know what the Book of Revelations says. "Heaven's not boring! The Bible says that we will have work to do and we will never get tired or bored of it. Just like God has a room for each of us, He has a job for each of us. I'm sure Dad is doing something fun and exciting."
My son nods. "Okay. Still think he'd like to be a fireman. Maybe there's a big campfire in Heaven. Dad always liked to be in charge of the fire when we went camping."
"He did that," I say. "And if there's a campfire in Heaven, I am sure it is spectacular!"
"Then I'm going to think that's what Dad is doing." He yawns. "I'm going up to bed."
"Me, too," I say. I check the lock on the front door and Allen uses the remote to turn off the fireplace.
"Dad would have loved the fireplace now," says Allen. I smile in agreement and together we walk up the stairs, the blanket still wrapped around my son's shoulders. He gives me a sideways hug. "Just one thing..."
"Well, if Dad's in charge of the campfire, I sure hope God's got a whole lot of marshmallows. Dad LOVED to roast marshmallows."
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