Baffled

Posted April 26th, 2014
Roommate and Tawfiqa

In my college dorm with a special room-mate,
my daughter, Tawfiqa

I just got back home from seeing the movie, “Heaven is for Real” and I’m baffled.

“Heaven is For Real,” based on a book of the same name, is the story of a four-year old boy who has a near-death experience. Once he returns to his body, he begins relating anecdotes of his visit to heaven. He’s quite matter-of-fact about it all. Sadly, no one else is. Not the members of the church board, who prayed fiercely for his recovery; not his mother who leads the church choir; not even his father, who is the church’s pastor. And that’s what’s baffling. A man acquainted with the holy scriptures, which declare the existence of heaven, in no uncertain terms; a man who has read about, and, I’m sure, preached on the promise that, when a believer dies, he or she will enter heaven and be greeted by loved ones who passed on, before—this man does not actually believe that his son has seen heaven, or that heaven physically, literally—not metaphorically—exists.

What is such a man doing in the pulpit? What exactly is his wife singing about every Sunday morning? Why do members of the church board bother to gather, at all? That is what baffles me. After all, when it comes to the Nicene Creed, Heaven and Hell, death, resurrection and eternal life are pretty basic.

In May of 1974, I rocked back and forth over the grave of my daughter, Tawfiqa, my one and only child. She died just before her fourth birthday. As a poet and author, it’s fair to say that I am quite the wordsmith. However, believe me when I say this: I do not possess the language to make you understand the depth of the pain I felt at the loss of my child. The pain I feel. The pain I will continue to feel until the day I die. What makes it possible for me to stand, let alone laugh and know joy in my life, is the certainly that I will one day see my precious child again. The Bible has taught me that. The Spirit of God has impressed that upon my heart. Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ who died on Calvary, then conquered death by rising again, did so, in part, to make that very reunion possible. If you believe that, as I do, you live your life with power. If you don’t, as the pastor in this film did not, then you live within the constraints of your own human power, which is to say, with no power at all. Let’s face it, human power is, at the end of the day, an illusion. I’m not interested in living with the limitations of man. Are you? But I digress.

My central question, here, is why anyone would pour himself into the work of the church universal if he doesn’t even believe in its most basic doctrines. And when he, for a moment, began to consider that maybe heaven actually was real, why did he care that people made fun of him for it? If, in fact, he’s going to heaven, he will most certainly have the last laugh. When people mock my faith, that’s what I hold onto. But then, he is not me.

Maybe the gentleman in this story was placed near the Light so that his own son could lead him fully into it. Yeah. That could be it. Of course, what this particular man was doing in that particular church pulpit is really none of my business. It’s God’s. Better I should direct my time and energy into feeling grateful—grateful that I believe in the Christ who died so that I could live for him here on earth, and with him some day in heaven; grateful that I can look forward to seeing my beautiful daughter, again, as well as my foster brother, and many others whom I’ve lost along the way; grateful that my belief in such things is matter-of-fact—not because such things aren’t miraculous, but because the God of the Universe has shown me miracles time and time again.

What about you? Have you run into any angels lately? Have you experienced the miraculous? Do you even want to? The one great power we humans have is choice.

3 Responses to “Baffled”

  1. WOW WOW WOW! AMEN! AMEN! WOW! WOW!
    Sorry for all of the caps! I just feel so blessed by your post! I don’t know if you would be interested in this, but this week I just felt so weighed down by the weight of this world. So many I love around me were being hit hard by tragedies and sadness. I filmed this little video and posted it on FB: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10152082362630863&l=6065991554144659532. It is kinda goofy, but it is from my heart.
    Anyway, I really love your books! I recommend them all the time to folks at my public library and also to those in the schools I visit.
    I wondered if you are planning on writing any more Dyamonde Daniel book?
    Thank you so much for this post and for sharing your gift with the world!
    God bless!
    ing :)

  2. Kurzon says:

    Thanks for sharing this. It gives me a lot to think about, especially how movies portray reality … or not.

  3. Nathalie says:

    Much food for thought, Nikki; thank you for writing about it. I really like the portrayal of the father in the book, and how as the book was written, he didn’t shy away from telling the truth about his reaction once his faith got tested “for real.” The honesty about his doubts, his anger, even as a pastor who is supposed to have so much certainty and to be a model of faith for others.

    I hope his testimony encourages people to truly be honest about the state of their faith, whether or not they really believe what they sing and read about and pray about.

    I’m really sorry about your loss, but admire your resilience and faith so much. I can relate to your experience to some extent.

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