Children are full of wonder. They love to explore the world around them, and often experience the world through their imaginations. I remember when I was younger I'd play make-believe games with my brother and sister. We had a swingset in our back yard with a treehouse attached to it. NASA's space program was in the news, with expeditions to the moon and back happening quite frequently, so our treehouse was our “rocketship”, the back yard was the moon or Mars or some planet to be conquered in the name of science, and our basset hound Mortimer was a space creature to be either befriended or avoided, depending on the scenario we were playing out at the time.
Role-playing and make-believe games are just one way kids experience their world. Another way they learn is to ask questions. And they have a never-ending series of questions they seek answers for. “Why is the sky blue?” “How come it's cold in winter?” “Why does the giraffe have a long neck, and snakes don't have legs?” Their thirst for knowledge is never ending. We love it that they ask these questions, even though we often don't know the answers ourselves.
And there are the questions kids ask nearly every day. “Mom, where are my shoes?” “Can I have a snack?” My sister would wake my mom every morning and ask with sleepy half-opened eyes, “What's for bwekfast?” Mom would give her answer. Mom could have said anything, from Cap'n Crunch to deep fried pig snouts, and Julie would say, “OK,” and make her way back to bed and go back to sleep. She was content just to know that mom was there, and that we would be provided for.
But there is one question we wish they wouldn't ask so often:
“Are we there yet?”
The road trip question. Actually, you don't even have to be on a road trip to hear the incessant “Are we there yet?” from the back seat of the car. You just have to be going someplace, and it doesn't even have to be far. I heard the question from the back seat of the car on a 10-minute trip once. It wasn't in the form of “Are we there yet?” It was “How many turns until we get there?” But the meaning was the same.
“Are we there yet?” No amount of answering “NO!” seems to satisfy the petitioner. “Are we there yet?” “Five minutes more” makes the next five minutes an eternity. Why can't they ask something else, like “What makes glass see-through?” or “Mommy, who was your favorite teacher?” But nnnNNNNOOOOoooooo.... they have to ask “Are we there yet?” Doing our best to hold back our worst stink-eye ever, we patiently answer, “We'll get there when we have done what it takes to get there. But I promise – we will get there.” And when at last “Are we there yet?” becomes “We're here!” -- Oh, repeat the sounding joy!
Last week I blogged about being stuck in our own “Munchkinland,” traveling on the road to our heavenly home. Along the journey we find ourselves with many questions, such as “Why is there sickness?” “Why do bad things happen to good people?” “God, where were you on 9/11?” “Why is this happening to me when it's so unfair?” Even though the answers are not easy for us to explain or comprehend, God has answers for us. He welcomes not only the tough “why” questions, but the day-to-day requests too. “God, I don't know how I'll make ends meet this month, but I trust you to help me and provide a way.” “God, I know I need to have this talk with my son about what he did wrong. It's not an easy talk and I don't know what to say. Will you give me the right words?” “Can I exchange my Ruby Slippers for Nike's?” And He is faithful to answer those requests, sometimes with answers we like; sometimes in ways we don't care for; and sometimes in ways we don't expect!
“Is this heaven?”
No, it's Iowa.
“Are we there yet?”
Ahh, heaven... “Are we there yet?” No, not yet. For those who place their trust in Jesus, I promise someday the answer will be “Yes, we're here!” When we finally do arrive in heaven all of our questions will be answered. We will know what makes the sky blue, why some animals are eight feet tall while others slither on the dirt, and what kind of antics Jesus got into when he was young. We will see why we were allowed to experience hardship and suffering, and see how God was able to use atrocities for His good purpose. We will be able to explore our surroundings, not in our imaginations but first-hand. We will be able to look around us with a sense of peace and security like we've never known before, and joyfully say, “There's no place like home!”