Heaven is for Real chronicles the remarkable tale of little Colton Burpo, who near death, experiences the wonders of heaven. The movie, based upon the 2010 best seller of the same name, raises the theme of the afterlife; bringing the existence of God beyond the boundaries of church walls and bookshelves into the public square.
Scoffed for its overtly religious overtones, Heaven satisfies a pining for storylines depicting a belief in a merciful God and concepts of a hereafter. What audiences have been given so far this season are clichéd films of the paranormal and macabre with a fixation upon death and darkness. Even Noah, a supposed Biblical epic, omitted God’s attribution to the story.
“There’s been a surge in spiritual movies recently,” Greg Kinnear, who plays Todd Burpo, the boy’s father, said. “But what I’ve learned in my career is that everything is cyclical. While this may be a current trend, the kinds of movies audiences flock to see tends to change periodically. Nobody dictates this stuff except the audience.”
Little Colton makes sporadically-timed, unprovoked pronouncements about his time in heaven. Colton astounds his parents with his surprising accuracy. The schematic of God’s throne room isn’t taught in Sunday School at Colton’s age. His childlike humility and a refreshing lack of guile make Colton’s assertions sound more like the “simple conviction of an eye witness” than a toddler telling tales. Todd Burpo, captures his son’s forthrightness when he says, “It’s that precious, fleeting time before we have accumulated enough pride or position to care what other people might think…it is intellectual honesty: to be willing to accept reality and to call things what they are even when it is hard.”
Colton’s accounts penetrate the most skeptically-minded adult – adults prone to suspending belief in the existence of God for the benefit of argument or saving face; only to take it up again when belief suits our circumstances.
The Burpos give audiences permission to walk alongside them as they struggle with anger, judgment calls and balancing the burning desire to share Colton’s story while not letting him get exploited as a sideshow attraction.
Whether one relates to a parent’s helplessness as their child is fed through a sterile intravenous line rather than by loving hands equipped with coated spoon and stringed carrots; whether audiences relate to the inner grief felt by the woman who grieves the life that could have been; never being granted the gift of singing to her miscarried child; or whether audiences identify with the extreme vulnerability and nakedness experienced when one loses one so precious; the story of Heaven as told by a four year old may be the balm of healing that the Great Physician prescribed.
Colton’s saga has encouraged many a friend through the loaning of the bestselling book. Its arrival in theatres is sure to provide comfort and encouragement on a grand scale.
In Psalms 147:3 God promises to “heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds.” Perhaps He has used the Burpo family to help heal broken hearts through their story.