"Tell me about skunks."
Skunks live in the woods. That's where they should stay. If they see you in the woods, they will get scared and spray you with smelly stuff. If they come out of the woods and cross the road, a car will hit them. The spray stuff plus being dead creates a horrid smell that stings your nose hairs for miles and miles.
"Tell me about cars."
This is where I name every stinkin' make and model of cars/trucks/vans I can think of. And then she asks for more and I have to resort to makes like Daewoo.
"Tell me about deer."
Deer are animals that live in the woods. They have antlers and four legs.
"Tell me about stinky deer."
Stinky deer are animals that live in the woods. They have antlers and four legs. They don't bathe.
Skunks are the most frequent. That girl has a thing for skunks, so much that one day last week I had to pretend to vacuum the hallway with a skunk by my side. Let me tell you, me and skunk were BFF. And you all probably saw my tweet about how to keep a skunk from spraying: make him laugh by tickling his bottom. She will run around the house pretending to be a skunk, spraying other people kinda like Spiderman sprays his web. And she pretends to be sprayed by a skunk.
Maybe we'll get her a pet skunk. HA!
The other request she has frequently is dying.
"Tell me about dying." This request and the skunk go hand in hand. One always follows the other. I always think of skunks when I think about dying, don't you?
The first time she wanted me to tell her about dying, I first had to pick my heart up off the floor and remind myself to start breathing again. Why is my (then) 2 year old asking me about dying? Then I fumbled around in my head for an answer that would give an accurate description of what dying is without giving her reason to develop irrational fears.
Because we all know that an irrational fear of the potty sends her into a 60 hour potty hiatus. I'd hate to see what an irrational fear of death will do to her.
I carefully, but quickly, thought through it. Not only did it need to be accurate, I knew that my first answer had to be a good one because she would remember it forever. She doesn't forget anything anyone says, and if my answers to her questions ever vary, it's a guarantee she will ask about any parts I left out. Parts that I usually have no recollection of.
This is what I came up with:
When God decides it's time for you to leave this earth, He makes your heart stop beating. If you have a relationship with Him, you will live with Him for eternity in Heaven. If you do not have a relationship with Him, you will suffer for eternity in Hell with Satan.
"Oh" is all she said. Like she was thinking, woah Mom, thanks for stating the brutal facts.
She's asked me about dying approximately 439 times. Every single time it's been while we are riding in the car. I think God does that on purpose. When I'm driving, she has my full attention (other than me keeping my eyes on the road and such). I'm not cooking, cleaning, folding clothes, checking Twitter, etc. I'm 100% available for conversation. And because of that, we have some serious and not so serious questions in the car (death vs. skunks for example).
Every time we have talked about dying, the conversation gets deeper and deeper and many times I have to pinch myself. Am I really having these deep discussions with a 3 year old? It truly blows my mind how intellectual God made her.
We've gone into great detail of what it means to have a relationship with God. We obey Him, we listen to Him, we follow Him, we suffer and sacrifice for Him, we spend time with Him, we learn about Him, we pray to Him, etc. I explain that Mommy and Daddy have a relationship with Jesus. To which, she then asks...
Do I have a relationship with Jesus? And I tell her that she's working on one. I have no idea if that's the right answer, but it's just what came to mind. It's obvious God is using all these conversations to plant a seed in her heart that He will cultivate according to His plan.
Lily, do you want a relationship with God?
For me, saying "I have a relationship with God" is the equivalent to saying "I'm saved" or "I'm a follower of Christ." So we talk about what happens when we say yes to God's invitation to us to follow Him.
It's serious business, following Jesus. And I want her to understand the fullness of it.
I'm not ready to follow Jesus yet.
And that BREAKS my heart, but I know that's not an indication that she's turned into some crazy rebel. I hope and think that it means she's still trying to grasp it all and wrap her 3 year old mind around the magnitude of following Christ.
I'M NOT GOING TO SUGAR COAT THE GOSPEL FOR HER. I try to stay in tune with what's going on in her little world on a daily basis so we can have these gospel conversations. And I tell it like it is.
I tell her that her sin (and mine) is why Jesus was killed on the cross. I tell her that we are murderers. And many times when she is in trouble, she will ask me if what she did put Jesus on the cross. And my response is always "yes" followed by "so is the impatient behavior Mommy showed when she was irritated with you."
I tell her what we deserve for our sins--eternal punishment.
I tell her that because Jesus took the punishment for sin once and for all, we can accept His gift of forgiveness and receive what we don't deserve: Jesus and Heaven.
I tell her that if we live a life ignoring the sacrifice Jesus made for us and never accept His gift of forgiveness, we will get what we do deserve--eternal punishment in Hell. Yes, I do use the word Hell.
I tell her that when we decide to follow Jesus we are giving up what we want, and it can be a very difficult thing to do day in and day out. But, we get to take on what He wants. His plan is always better and for our good and His glory...no matter the amount of suffering we face.
And when she asks to read the Bible at 3am, I let her, because there very well may be a time in her life where she is facing something hopeless at 3am and she will need to know she can turn to the Lord. I never want to discourage her from doing anything that will cultivate a relationship with the Lord. But I can't promise I'm staying up with her :).
On this Good Friday, I'm upset that I don't get to spend it with her (she's with grandparents this week for Spring Break). Pinterest has made me believe that if I don't make those dang resurrection rolls with her then she just won't ever get it and Easter will have no meaning. That something about a marshmallow evaporating inside a crescent roll is the only way to describe the miracle of Jesus rising from the dead. It's cute and all, sure, and certainly is a good visual for a young child. But, what's wrong with just telling her the brutal facts?
I DON'T SUGAR COAT.
Last week we made an Easter wreath (the 2nd craft in all my Pinterest finds that I've actually completed because all it involved was printing, coloring, cutting, gluing. AKA I didn't have to buy a thing). I think the memory of making that wreath as a family and talking about BIG words like Jerusalem, Gethsemane, Crucifixion, and Resurrection will hang around my heart forever.
There's a lot of talk out there about putting your phone down so we don't miss memorable moments with our kids. I totally agree. But if we aren't careful, we will miss more than just memorable moments. We will miss opportunities for gospel conversations with our kids. They happen in the middle of the mundane.
My greatest desire is for her to have a growing relationship with the Lord and to follow His plan for her life. I can't grant her salvation from the punishment of her sins. Only God can do that in His mercy and power. But, I can make a beneficial use of the time God has given me to plant seeds in her impressionable heart and help her to understand the amazing reward Jesus is for those that follow Him. I'm extremely grateful and humbled that God is helping her to understand the gospel.
Here's my point...God has entrusted to us His children to teach and raise up into mature followers of Christ. It is not the responsibility of the church or any other religious organization. It is 100% on our shoulders to see that we lead our kids to Christ. The stuff they learn at church is a bonus and is useful in our journey, but if these things aren't being taught and modeled at home first, our kids might grow up to think that church/worship is something done only on Sundays inside a building. Take every opportunity you can to have gospel conversations and worship in your home. Don't sugar coat a thing. Give them the truth. Let them hear it and see it from you on a daily basis before they hear the diluted truth or lies from the world.
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise."
Deuteronomy 6: 4-7