Cherry and Samson were in all the same classes. They went to the same church. They rode the same bus because they lived next door to each other. But they weren’t much of friends.
Cherry was quiet, was usually late to class, and always sat in the back. Samson always got to class early, and sat in the second row, so the teacher could see right when his hand went up- because he knew all the answers.
Cherry’s locker was a mess. Papers fell out of it almost every time she opened it. The people in the lockers next to her often asked her if she had left an old lunch in her locker too long, because it smelled. She usually had.
Samson stood outside his locker, always smiling, giving the popular boys high fives and winking chivalrously at the pretty girls. Everyone liked Samson.
Cherry never had the answers in their Sunday school at church. If she thought she had the answer, she usually kept quiet because Samson probably knew it better than she did and would answer first.
One day when the Sunday school teacher asked them, “What do you guys think you have to do to get to heaven?”
Samson’s hand went up. He said, “You have to always do the right thing and always do good.”
The teacher paused and hesitated at his answer. Cherry’s ears perked up because Samson was never wrong.
“Well,” the teacher said, “How good do you think you have to be?”
Samson’s hand shot up again. “You probably have to be better than most other people.”
“Hmmm,” the teacher hesitated again. “So if you’re better than most of the kids at your school, what if there are schools in china where kids always do their homework and don’t steal and are always nice to each other? And what if they are all better than you?”
“But there aren’t. China is a communist country.” Samson answered, trying to prove himself right.
The teacher gave Samson a challenging look that said, “But what if you’re wrong?”
Cherry’s ears and eyes were glued to the situation. Her Bible journal slipped out of her jacket pocket and knocked over her cup of coffee on the floor. But she didn’t move because she wanted to see what the teacher would say.
“The answer is,” the teacher looked at Samson seriously, “we can never be good enough. There’s always going to be someone better than us that deserves heaven more than us. And there are always people who have a harder time at life than we do.” The teacher snuck a glance and looked at little cherry lovingly.
Cherry sat in the back, zipped up in her dirty jacket, her wide eyes fixed on the teacher, who continued, “But the way to get to heaven is to basically ask God to be your father and friend.”
Samson was silent.
The teacher looked at the class. She said, “So what does it mean to have God as your father and friend?”
“You have to love him.” It was little Cherry’s voice quiet from the back.
The teacher smiled and said, “and what does that look like?”
Again she knew the answer, “You talk to him. And you listen to him. And you do what he asks because he’s like your dad.” Cherry talked to God like a best friend and like a dad, every day even though she couldn’t always get to class on time and sometimes she left rotten bananas in her locker.
The teacher continued, “Like when you get to know him you realize that he’s better than the very best dad in the world. And he’s like your best friend too.”
A week and a half later when Samson and Cherry’s bus got into an accident, a lot of people were hurt but they were the only two that died.
Cherry and Samson found themselves walking towards a bright light in a strange place together. They looked at each other and then kept walking.
When they were getting close they noticed someone walking next to them. “He said, hi guys. Where should we go?”
Samson, still getting his bearings said, “I’m heading for the light. That’s where heaven is.”
The man said, “But what if you’re wrong?”
Samson said, “Im going to heaven and that light looks like the place i want to be.”
“How about you, Cherry?” the man said. “Where do you want to go?”
Cherry looked up at him, with a glimmer of recognition in her eye. “Well, um, where are you going, Sir?”
“I’m going over there.” The man pointed to a group of silly-looking people at the beginning of a path. Some of them were crippled. Some of them were mentally challenged. Some of them were normal looking but were perfectly happy to hug and laugh with the others.
Cherry said, now feeling pretty sure she knew who the guy was, “I wanna go with you.”
Samson said, “Alright, whatever. I’m heading towards heaven.”
I don’t know where Samson ended up that day. If he ever found heaven on his own he would have been sorely surprised to find out that there were people all over the world who were better than him. But even they weren’t perfect enough for a perfect place.
But there was one very special person who is good enough to go into heaven and be with a perfect God. It is Jesus. And Cherry had recognized Jesus. And when Jesus and the rest of his silly looking crew got to heaven, God and everyone watching saw Cherry and said, “She’s not good enough to come in here!”
And Jesus picked her up in his arms and said, “It’s ok everybody. She’s with me.” They all knew that Jesus would inherit this kingdom and what he said was true. So they walked into God’s kingdom together.
Jesus knew that Cherry wasn’t perfect, but he also saw that she wanted to do whatever Jesus asked her to do. And one of those things would be, to someday, through his power, to become as perfect as he had designed her to be before the world began.