Today as I was packing away my Christmas decorations, I was watching one of my favorite movies: “Finding Neverland.” It’s about James Barrie, the Scottish author who created Peter Pan. In the movie, he befriends the widow Sylvia Llewelyn Davies and her four boys. He becomes so entranced with the boys, since he has no children of his own, that he creates the play, Peter Pan.
As Sylvia and James get to know each other, he begins to tell her about Neverland. Dreamy-eyed, she listens to him, imagining its wonders. By this time, she is sick with an inoperable cancer that makes her cough and keeps her from attending the premier of Peter Pan. So James does the next best thing…he brings the play to her home that very night, and the actors re-enact it for her. At the perfect moment, the backdrop lifts–which was once a wall of her home–and beyond is Neverland in all its glory, with fairies laughing and flitting about, Captain Hook and his cronies, and fantastical creatures in a beautiful setting. Sylvia, entranced, gets up and makes her way across the room and steps into Neverland. It is the last time we see her in the movie.
Every time I watch Finding Neverland, a yearning rises up in my heart. I think it’s because as a Christian, I have my own Neverland to look forward to, except it’s Foreverland, otherwise known as heaven. God has put a yearning for heaven in our hearts, because we were meant to be there for all eternity. It’s an incredible kingdom of amazing color, beauty, and majesty, where fantastical creatures dwell, dazzling angels fly about, and the King of Kings in all His splendor awaits to greet us with open arms.
And just like Neverland, heaven is meant for children and the young at heart.
And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:2-3)
The word “converted” in this verse comes from the Greek word “strepho” which means “to turn, to change, alter, adopt another course, return.” But what I find interesting about this verse is that Jesus doesn’t say, “Unless you convert and become like children…” but rather “unless you are converted,” implying that He does the conversion in us, rather than we ourselves. Jesus will convert us to our childlike, forever selves, before we enter the kingdom.
I believe that in the Garden of Eden, before sin entered the picture, Adam and Eve were childlike. They were vastly intelligent with razor-sharp minds, but they had nothing to worry about, nothing to fear, and everything to enjoy. Laughter came easily to them, and with their brand-new bodies, they could run, skip and climb effortlessly, and with perfect eyesight, they could see the exquisite detail in every leaf, insect and animal. They could gaze into the crystal-clear water and see the fish in rainbow colors cavorting about, and they could dive in and swim with them, because they were not afraid of the fish, and the fish were not afraid of them. They had no fear of death because it didn’t exist. And God was there, emanating love beyond imagining, and talking and laughing with them.
The Garden of Eden was a picture of heaven, and Adam and Eve were a picture of how we will be when we get there. We will be converted–returned–to our childlike state, so that we can enter. This doesn’t mean that we will be ignorant, but we will be humble, pure, light-hearted, happy, playful, affectionate, trusting, open, adventurous, and full of wonder. We will be as we were before mortgage payments, responsibility, pain, sickness, emotional hurt, stress, and anger came into our lives.
God wants us to yearn for heaven, our own Foreverland. He wants us to look forward, not back. He wants us to try to visualize it, so that when the going gets tough, we can see beyond this fallen world, and into the next. When it seems like the world, or our own four walls are closing in on us, we can close our eyes, and imagine that our walls have become a backdrop that is suddenly lifting, and there, beyond, is Foreverland, and right in the middle, the Lord Jesus, in brilliantly-white robes, smiling at us and beckoning for us to enter. And when we step from this world into Foreverland, He reaches out and takes our hands, and suddenly, we feel changed: younger, lighter, freer, happier, stronger, wilder…something like we used to be when we were children. We are converted to our forever selves, and suddenly we feel more alive than we have ever felt before.
The next time a yearning for heaven stirs in your heart, give in to it. Close your eyes and let your mind run wild. Jesus will meet you there.