Review | Waking Up In Heaven by Crystal McVea

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Waking Up In Heaven by Crystal McVea with Alex Tresniowski
 A True Story of Brokeness, Heaven, and Life Again

Howard Books | June 2013 

When I chose this book, I confess I did that thing you’re not supposed to: judged it by its cover. Well, the title to be exact. In fairness, the title is self-explanatory and who isn’t intrigued and excited by testimonies of people who’ve actually experienced the throne room of Heaven and stood face to face with Jesus? As I read the blurb and the first couple of chapters, I was a little disappointed therefore that the focus first appeared to be another ‘woman-abused-but-now-healed’ biography. There’s nothing wrong with those books (I’ve been blessed by many) - it just was not what I had hoped this book was about. My disappointment didn’t last for long.

In this biography, which alternates between describing McVea’s nine minutes in Heaven and her life before that, she and Tesniowski have taken in their stride the difficult task of describing the heavenly with earthly language and do a great job of communicating the life-changing power of McVea’s encounter whilst also acknowledging the limitations of language and memory. The re-telling of Crystal’s life leading up to the encounter is also done sensitively, showing the extent of her brokenness without wallowing in pity and without accusation, still honouring to others and always glorifying God. I was happy that they tackled some of the questions about life after the encounter too which I’ve found lacking in some of the other accounts I’ve read. Indeed, the main purpose of this book is actually not to give a description of Heaven, although there are descriptive passages. Rather the purpose of this book (and this is what makes it compelling) is to share a testimony of the transforming power of encountering the living God.

There is sadly much of McVea’s story that many will relate to: fatherlessness, neglect, abuse, abortion, conflict, betrayal, sickness, rebellion, loss, parenting a child with special needs and the search for love and acceptance just to name a few. Through her testimony the book tells reveals the reality of Heaven, a loving God who rescues and saves, loves unconditionally, provides for His children, works even when we don’t realise it, heals, restores and gives grace for the journey. A big plus is that the authors avoid Christianese, which makes it a book that will minister to challenge and encourage believers, but can also be given to non-believers or seekers.

As I read, I found some of my own thoughts of Heaven confirmed while others were challenged or surpassed. I found a greater sense of wonder as I pondered Heaven and eternity and what it will be like to experience it. I found myself drawn into Crystal’s story; hoping it wasn’t my stop next on the subway because I wanted to find out exactly what it was about Heaven that had so impacted her beyond everything else she experienced. I found myself mourning and celebrating with her, and I finished the book with a renewed realisation of the great contrast between the brokenness of the world and the incredible hope we have in Christ. I also found deeper levels of healing for myself as God used McVea’s story to show me areas in my own life where He still wanted to do more.

This book is a powerful account of the power and love of a real God and the existence of a real Heaven. Whether you’re looking to be inspired and encouraged by a great testimony, are intrigued by accounts of the Heavenly or are looking for an easy-to-read giveaway book that will inspire hope and point the way to healing and truth for someone (believer or not), I can recommend Waking Up In Heaven.