One busied himself sweeping a paintbrush coated in deep teal paint across the makeshift doorframe of their wood-and-tarp firefighter house. The other swung through the air next to him on his tree swing. I watched them, hot tea in hand and sunglasses perched atop my head, from a chair out in the back yard.
“Mom, is Mary dead?” The oldest one was asking for his little brother, who had just posed the question to him. It took me a moment to gather what they were asking. Right. Mary. Mary mother of Jesus. Got it.
“No Love, she is with Jesus in Heaven.”
My oldest, five-year-old Zeke, thought for a moment before posing his follow-up question. “So, is she dead in Heaven?”
This was getting harder.
“No….” I began precariously, “she lived a long time ago. She died here on the world, and now she is alive with Jesus in Heaven.”
Both boys nodded and went on with their play. I took a triumphant sip of my tea. I felt pretty good about our discussion. They have been getting harder recently. Yet as the questions dancing on the tips of my boys’ tongues become deeper, and my answers hold more weight, I find that my heart discovers so much purpose in these conversations. The big questions wave casually into our everyday, catching me off guard, as if the boys have been thinking on them for hours, and suddenly they pop into our car, or in the grocery store aisle, or at the coffee drive-thru line.
This happened a few weeks ago as we were driving through the mountains. My husband and I chatted, and the back seat had been quite silent. Then suddenly Zeke asked, “Hey, did God make it so that we can talk? Or did He make us like puppets?”
My husband and I glanced at each other wide-eyed.
We attended the same Bible college, my husband and me. And so we had both been through the same classes on God’s sovereignty, and had immersed ourselves in the same types of discussions about how much God controls, and what type of free will He has given us.
But Bible school never prepared us for explaining Calvinism vs Arminianism, and what God causes versus what He allows, in five-year-old vocabulary.
“God made it so that we can choose what to say, Love. He wants us to be able to make decisions, so that we can decide to love Him.”
The silence from the backseat told me that my answer was satisfactory.
They have been coming more and more frequently, these questions. Most of the time they catch me off guard. But sometimes I see them, working their way through my little guy’s mind. He grows silent, and I see the gears turning. I see that question sitting in his mind right amidst wonderings of how airplanes glide through the sky, or how caterpillars transform to butterflies.
It is easy to become overwhelmed by this task. As parents, we hold the responsibility on our shoulders of helping our children navigate these questions. We feel as though we are teetering on the edge of Well Done! and Well, You Screwed That Up! depending on the answers we give. We place incredible weight into each word, questioning ourselves the whole time on whether we’re explaining things right.
At least, I know that this is how I have felt. As though their future and eternity rests in the words I choose to craft my answers from.
It feels terribly delicate.
But then, just the other day as we were pulling onto our street, I overheard our middle guy nearly four years old, chattering away. He spouted off something about “God running away”, and Zeke didn’t miss a beat. “Ellison,” He began, seriousness dripping from his voice, “God does not run away. He loves us.”
And that’s when I saw it—or heard it, rather. Child-like faith.
He may not understand the intricacies of God’s sovereignty, but then again, neither do I. Yet sometimes I think that this child’s faith is actually bigger than my own.
It ends up that my answers are not quite as weighty as I place them on my shoulders to be. Rather, our kids come to understand faith and Jesus and love and beauty through what we show them every single day.
They see the grace of God every time I forgive them, and every time I ask them for their forgiveness. They see God’s beauty every time we take them out for a hike or a walk through the park. They see God’s creativity every time we sit next to them and splash paint on paper, speaking about how God is creative, and made us to be the same. They see God’s power every time we as parents stop relying on our own power to do things or say things just right, and instead trust God to work through us.
This is how our children come to know their Maker. Yes, we are called to be intentional with our words. We need to pay attention to the opportunities spun into everyday conversations to explain to them just how great and beautiful and loving our God is.
But we also need to stop placing all of the weight of their eternities into our perfectly manicured answers. We need to trust that God chose us as their parents for a reason. And we need to trust that He will work powerfully through our words throughout our everyday conversations.
“So commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these words of mine. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, so that as long as the sky remains above the earth, you and your children may flourish in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors.” Deuteronomy 11:19-21