This is how the slightly morbid, sometimes pleasant but mostly awkward discussion about “life after death” started with my 4 year old son.
(Before I begin, let me preface by saying that I am not a theologian and am in no way, shape or form qualified to have a discussion regarding this topic with even my 4 year old son)
“I’m not sure, kid”
“I love bacon”
“So do I, kiddo. And so I’m not sure we’d be forced to spend an eternity without access to the pure joy that is bacon”
I’d like to believe that instead of bacon coming from pigs, it would simply grow freely from heavenly vines, perfectly crisp and ready for consumption. In my heavenly backyard, I’d have an entire bacon vineyard, without any of that turkey flavored stuff. I’d be known as the bacon lady. Friends from near and far, from the past and from the future would all gather in my courtyard for freshly picked bacon.
This question let to many, many more questions about what is or isn’t in Heaven. I answered as many as I could from what I know and the rest I told him I’d find out. Somehow this conversation went from the happenings in Heaven to weapons in Heaven, to the final battle between good and evil. I can’t say that I ever imagined myself discussing the book of Revelation with my 4 and 6 year old sons at the dinner table. So much that my 6yo was even envisioning the sword he’d take into battle.
While this part of the discussion was taking place, my 4yo innocently pondered and finally interrupted asking whether or not he’d be able to take his massive teddy bear collection with him to Heaven. I assured him that although I didn’t know the exact time this would happen, that’d he’d probably be at least 100 and the issue of his teddy bears would no longer be a concern to him. So we could discuss that later.
“But mom, I’m going to miss you when you go to Heaven”-4yo
“Ugh, seriously, Juju?!? We are going to be like teenagers when that happens!!”-6yo
“Um, I sure hope I last a little longer than that”
When I was a kid growing up I was completely terrified of death and everything surrounding it. Did I do enough good or not enough bad to earn a spot in Heaven that day? What if it happened before I could get to confession and that ONE SINGLE SOLITARY sin I didn’t get to confess tipped the scales against my favor at the pearly gates. It would keep me up at night. And some days, to add insult to injury, I’d pick up my mom’s SPANISH bible and start reading the book of Revelation to myself.Uh huh, how’s that for a little prepubescent kid trying to scar themselves for life? I understood about 2% of the words I read, enough to keep me up at night. I’d fall asleep saying 100 Hail Mary’s (can ya guess how I was raised?) hoping that somehow I could earn enough grace to make it through the gates if I didn’t make it til morning that night. Hmmm.
Grace. The single most important thing that I have learned about and FINALLY understood in my thirties. We don’t have to earn grace? Whaaat? You mean, Jesus died on the cross and carried the burden of every single one of my sins and I need not worry about this? And although he aches for me when I make bad choices, He still forgives me and loves me unconditionally? Maybe I wouldn’t need so many naps as at grown up had I learned this as a child and wasn’t trying to make up for so much lost sleep. Grace. Something that I initially took for granted and used sparingly. Little by little God has taught me to be responsible with this amazing gift. He’s let me fall flat on my face but He’s also been standing there with open arms waiting to help me up. Little by little He’s loosened up the reigns, and the more I understand… and the more responsible I am with it, the more He blesses me with it. What a perfect parent He is.
Being able to have this sort of innocent discussion about teddy bears and bacon in Heaven with my two young boys is wonderful. They’re going to grow up understanding God’s grace and look forward to the day that they finally get to meet Jesus face to face. No fear. No guilt. Only love. Lots and lots of love.