Person after person stood to read, with periods of rest between, allowing all to contemplate the message and experience the communion elicited in the writing. There were letters written by parents to children, and children to parents. Letters to husbands, wives, friends, pastors. Letters to the editor. Articles and columns written by journalists. Each was followed by thoughtful applause and earnest noddings. Some, like Finney, had never heard these readings before; others perhaps had heard them often, but on hearing them again felt as much or more joy as the first time.
Finney sensed the program was leading to its climax. The others had been praised by Elyon for their writings before, though they never tired of his praise. But here came a little boy. Finney knew somehow it was his first time doing a reading in this great hall. He was, like Finney, a newcomer. He had in his hand a paper he’d written for his third-grade class. He held the wide-ruled notebook page he’d first written it on, but it had a different look, as if it had been transformed into the parchment of heaven that would never deteriorate.
A moderator, an angel, held up his hand and explained this had been a school assignment where the teacher had asked the students to write about someone they loved. They turned in the assignment and later would read it to the class. But suddenly, as if there were a large screen video projection in midair, everyone was seeing the teacher, not angry but with a worried look, examining Jeffrey’s paper and explaining to him, “Jeffrey, remember I said it had to be a real person, not someone imaginary.”
Jeffrey, the Jeffrey in the projection of what actually happened on earth, looked surprised. “Jesus is a real person.” The teacher kindly explained there would be other assignments where the class could write about Santa Claus or Spider Man or any character they wanted, and perhaps he should save Jesus for them. Jeffrey explained he wanted to write about Jesus now because Jesus really was his best friend. What followed was a conversation Jeffrey had never seen, now broadcast in heaven. The teacher was talking to the principal, and they were saying something about the separation of church and state, and how the ACLU got upset about such things, and how it could get them in trouble. The principal concluded, ‘Give him credit for the assignment. Just don’t let him read it to the class.’ The next day, other students gave their readings, but before Jeffrey was called on, they were out of time and had to move on to mathematics. The image vanished, and the focus returned to the Hall of Writings.
The moderator said, “Now, at last, we are all eager to listen to Jeffrey read his essay.” The boy cleared his throat, then proudly projected his voice. “‘Someone I love,’ by Jeffrey Montgomery.” He flashed the incomparable smile of a child about to recite an original composition.
“I love Jesus. He is my best friend. He likes it when I do good things. He doesn’t like it when I do bad things. But he always forgives me when I ask him to. He died to take away the bad things I’ve done. But he is still alive and I talk to him every day. He talks to me too, through his Bible, and sometimes even when I’m not reading the Bible, I can tell he’s talking to me in a quiet voice. Even though I can’t exactly hear the words, I know what he’s saying. And some day my Mom and Dad say I’m going to heaven where he lives. And you can too if you just ask him to forgive your sins, like I have. I have a lot of nice friends, but Jesus is my best friend. Jesus can be your best friend too.”
Suddenly there was the sound of thunder and an earthquake. All heaven shook, and Finney grabbed the pillar next to him, looking at Zyor for an answer. What was it? What had happened? All eyes turned to the great throne of heaven, at which Jeffrey was already looking. There was the Audience of One, not sitting but standing. And then Finney watched as his hands clapped together again, and the ground and buildings gave and shook like a plywood shack in a wind storm.
Angels and humans joined in the applause, though Jeffrey could not hear the meager noise they made, for the sound that came from the throne overpowered them. And then a voice cut through the air like lightening. The voice too shook the ground, each word creating its own tremor. “Well done, my good and faithful son.”
All heaven bowed along with the boy who had so deeply touched the One who had made the universe itself with less fanfare than he now devoted to this child. Suddenly he was there on the stage. Lifting him high above his head, he said to the wide-eyed delighted boy, “Well done, Jeffrey.”
The hall was evacuated, Finney leaving with the rest, for what followed was private and sacred. What the two would talk about, where they would go, what they would do was between them only. And should Jeffrey decide to tell others, it would be only for the joy of it, only to relive and recount it, to exult in the fellowship and friendship of which the strongest version on earth had been but an impoverished foreshadow.
As he walked out of the hall, Finney turned back and took one last look in the boy’s eyes, filled with wonder and delight. The faint taste of these realities that the boy might have occasionally known in the Shadowlands had now erupted into all the flavors of heaven. Boy and God-man were turning circles on the stage, the boy laughing as never before. The deep, hearty laugh of the Ancient of Days and the high, squeaky laugh of heaven’s new child, melded into one.
Finney knew the immense delight that flooded him now came not just from the boy, but from the God-man. The pleasure taken in Elyon was exceeded only by the pleasure taken by Elyon.
Finney pondered that if the atmosphere of earth was nitrogen and oxygen, and the atmosphere of hell was sulfur and acid, then the atmosphere of heaven was joy and delight.
This is an excerpt from Randy Alcorn’s book, Deadline.