The Bible study leader sits in the front of the room, surrounded by a group of adults with special needs. The lesson is about heaven and what God’s word actually tells about it. He reads from John 14:3: “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you with me, that you also may be where I am.”
The leader explains that when we get to heaven, we’ll actually get to see God — something few human beings have ever gotten to do while on this earth. “What do you think God will look like?” he asks. One young lady raises her hand. “He’ll be old,” she says. “With gray hair.”
“Will he have a beard?” the leader follows up. “Yes,” says another. “A long, flowing, white one.” At this point, one of the men is struck by an idea. He gets up and goes to a shelf in the back of the room. He returns producing a pictorial bible. On the cover is a rendering of a handsome young man with shoulder-length dark hair and short, dark, full face beard. “This is what God looks like,” he says confidently.
“No, that’s Jesus,” chimes in a lady in the group. “God is His father. He’ll be older.” The leader senses an opportunity to play with this topic a bit in an effort to get his audience to think more deeply about what heaven is like. “How do you suppose God will be dressed?” he inquires. “What color are his eyes? Is he right-handed or left-handed?”
The participation becomes more widespread and excited, some so eager to talk they stop raising their hands and just begin to gleefully shout out answers. “He’ll be wearing a long, white robe!” “His eyes are blue, like mine!” “No way! His eyes are brown!” There is consensus in the room that God is right-handed because that’s what all of them are. As various opinions are offered, those who are unable to communicate verbally smile and laugh approvingly, or frown and shake their heads. It is clearly a subject they have warmed to.
The leader decides it’s time to steer the discussion toward the central message. “It’s going to be exciting to get to heaven and actually see God,” he asserts. “But what do we have to do to get there?”
Now the room falls silent. Blank faces all around, looking at each other, shoulders shrugging. The leader can’t help feeling a little disappointed. He has led this group before. He’s been through this. Did it never sink in?
He patiently explains once again that the only way to heaven is to repent of sin and turn toward Jesus as Lord and Savior.
There is no response. Closing his Bible, he begins to end the session. “So what is the most important thing we have learned this morning?” he quizzes. They stare at him without speaking. What are they thinking, he wonders. Do they understand? Do they get it?
After what seems like a long pause, a woman finally raises her hand. “We learned,” she says with sudden conviction, “that it doesn’t matter so much what God looks like. It’s more important what we look like to God.”
The entire room breaks into nods and squeals of approval. Somebody starts clapping, and suddenly there is a full round of applause. The young lady who gave the answer flashes a smile big enough to light the building.
The leader is smiling too. Yep, they get it. Maybe better than some of the rest of us.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Ken Lass is a familiar face to Central Alabamians, having been a television news and sports anchor in Birmingham for more than 30 years. Currently, he is an award-winning columnist for several local and national publications and websites. Ken and his wife, Sharon, live in Trussville, where he serves as a deacon at First Baptist Church Trussville. He is also a member of the board of directors of Pathways Professional Counseling, a sister ministry of Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes & Family Ministries that offers Christ-centered counseling throughout Alabama.