“Mommy, are unicorns going to be with me in heaven?” Her soft brown eyes adorably blinked in wonder and a hopeful smile grew with every word she spoke. I watched her thoughtful countenance grow more and more excited. I could almost see the sparkly marshmallow clouds she envisioned. Crystal clear blue skies exploding with glistening candy rainbows. Bubbles of happy feelings floating and bursting unexpectedly, resulting in boosts of joy. And, of course, unicorns. Smiling glittery animals who had magical power to make anything happen. You want ice cream? ZI-I-I-ING. Dub Techno dance party? BAM. I know, baby girl. That sounds amazing.
For a little girl, you have heard about this incredible thing called eternal life. No more sadness, no more pain. Only happiness. (You know the song—Pink fluffy unicorns dancing on rainbows.) It’s the promise of a life better than the one you know now, and today your imagination is the limit.
But if I were to deconstruct your little question, I could offer some hard-core truth. First, unicorns are not real. Despite your fascination and love of these mythical animals, we just don’t have any proof that such a magical beast has ever existed. Even if something like a horse with a horn is found to be a creature of God, mystical powers to alter reality are more likely to be associated with witchcraft and demons. Furthermore, the one true God works miracles and wonders for the salvation of His people, not simple trickery for a midnight snack. But I know you just really want ice cream all the time.
Second, even more importantly, heaven is not our ultimate hope. Our promise is not to live forever riding on rainbows and soaring in the clouds. It gets even better than that. Our promise is resurrection; body and soul united forever as God created His creatures to be. Jesus was first raised from the dead, to show us what was to come. He had flesh and walked around on His Father’s creation. We are promised that we will live on a new earth, body and soul.
But these things are not the answers to your wonders. What you say today isn’t really even a question. Your question is excitement. Your pondering is hope. You are confessing the expectation of a new reality to come. And I just continue to tell you who you are—chosen by God to live forever.
I know when you grow up your excitement will fade. As you begin to care more about lip gloss and the advice of your pre-teen friends, the marshmallows won’t sparkle as brightly as they once did. Rainbows will melt into forgotten shades of grey. The unicorns will run away behind your girlish childhood memories. And the hope of a new place to live forever might hide in those childhood imaginations, as well.
But, I will tell you who you are. Excited or not, you are chosen by God. He reached down from heaven and marked you with Christ, before you could ever even speak. You didn’t do anything, except cry when the baptismal water pierced your baby girl life. And still today, whether you can look forward to a unicornless eternity or not, He has captured you by the amazing love of His Son. You are chosen by God to live forever.
I know the day is coming when you will feel despair. The real pain of a broken world will shatter any sweet candy dreams that linger. You will realize the world has been like this the whole time, and you were just too young and naïve to understand. People die. Friends betray. Parents fail. You, yourself, are guilty of things you didn’t even realize. You are even angry that seemingly foolish hopes once captivated your thoughts. Your disappointed eyes will tell a hopeless story that will be tempting to believe.
But I will tell you who you are. Trapped in a world of struggle and sin, you are still chosen by God. Even though you have more and more knowledge about the fallen world after the Garden of Eden, it does not change what has been done to you. Right now, today, you are a saint of God waiting for the new earth. He drowned your evil heart, and resurrected Christ in you. You now know the pain, and yet you now look forward to the relief. You are chosen by God to live forever.
I know what the grown-up world will tell you about yourself. Trust your heart, depend on yourself, be true to you. But the lost little dreamer inside will struggle to find identity. Inexperienced decisions lead to arbitrary paths. One day you wake up still asking, "Who am I?" Most will not be bold enough to tell you about the only identity that matters. They will only give approval to your every exploration.
But I will tell you who you are. Even if you cannot hear me anymore. Especially when you don’t want me to say it. You are baptized, chosen by God. Your choices can’t nullify His choice. Your stains never cover His mark. “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39) You are chosen by God to live forever.
For any girl, we have heard about this incredible thing called eternal life. No more sadness, no more pain. Only happiness. It’s the promise of a life better than the one we know now, and no matter what our question is—we really just need to hear who we are.
“Mommy, are unicorns going to be with me in heaven?”
Baby girl, I know your questions will change. But my response will always be the same: you are baptized into Christ, chosen to live forever with our Lord Jesus Christ.