“I want to live with Jesus,” my daughter recently said, and I was so pleased.
“You will someday!” Here’s my opportunity, I thought. “When we love Jesus and ask Him to live in our hearts and be our Saviour, we get to go live with Him in heaven when we die.”
I smiled at her expectantly, waiting for her face to crinkle into a grin.
Instead, she wailed, “But I don’t want to die!”
“Well . . . but . . . everyone dies, Piper,” I spluttered. I realized perhaps I should have thought this through a little more. I certainly wasn’t planning on delving into issues of mortality with a four year old, and I wasn’t sure how to handle it.
“But I don’t want to die!” she repeated with alarm.
I decided to try a different tactic. “But someday you’ll get so big and tall and strong, and you’ll get to be a grown up and get married and have babies. And then you’ll get older and be a grandma and then, one day, you’ll die. But you’ll get to go to heaven and live a wonderful life with Jesus!”
“Waaaaaaah! I don’t want to be a grandma!”
It took some time to calm her down. As much as I tried to offer reassurance that getting old is a part of life that can be full of good things, and that dying means going to live with Jesus if we’ve asked Him to be our Saviour – well, she wasn’t assuaged. Eventually we changed the subject and she let it go.
But that conversation has stayed with me. I gaze at my children, and I think: How do I explain that someone died for you? That though as beautiful and innocent as you are, you are broken. You need a Saviour. You are pure but also marred by sin. There is an ugly, bloody truth that Someone was tortured and hung on a splintered cross with nails driven hard into hands of soft, human flesh. And it was all for you. It was disgusting and dirty and sweaty and blood dripped down, but it was also the most beautiful of cleansings, the most beautiful redemption of wrong turned right.
It makes my breath catch a little when I dwell on the magnitude of this duty we have as parents – to teach our children the truth about salvation, sin and our own mortality. It’s both a comfort and a feeling of helplessness to realize that I can use all the words in the world to explain salvation to my children, but without reliance upon prayer and the work of the Holy Spirit, my words are empty. And so I pray. Pray and pray and pray – for the softening of my children’s hearts, for their eyes to be opened to the truth and for their spirits to be receptive to the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
Praying along with you, fellow parents.
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What are your favourite verses for teaching salvation to your children? How have you approached tough issues like mortality – whether their own or perhaps regarding a relative or friend who has passed away?