"Mommy, I've decided I don't want to ask Jesus into my heart."
Quite a decision, voiced from Tyler sitting behind me in his carseat.
"Because I don't want to go to heaven. I just want to stay here with you."
I deeply love these glimpses into the minds of my children, even as they puzzle me. Heaven is more real to the three of us, since Daddy is there. But heaven is no more tangible to Tyler than it is to me. None of us can see beyond that door, to see Daddy's perfect, enviable life as a new creation.
And since Tyler can't wrap his mind around where and what heaven is, he would just rather stay here. With me. I'm tangible. I make sense. Little else does.
"Well, Tyler, that's a decision only you can make, and it's all up to you. But I sure hope you change your mind. Daddy asked Jesus into his heart, so he's in heaven now. I asked Jesus into my heart, so I'll go there someday too. I hope you decide to ask him, because I really want you to go to heaven, too. It's the most perfect, beautiful place."
"So, if I don't ask him into my heart, does that mean I'll be here all alone?" asks my social boy, my extrovert, who cries at bedtime because his bed is lonely, whose greatest delight at the playground is the new faces to meet.
"Well, no," I'm not really sure where to take this. Not really ready to talk with my three-year-old about fire and brimstone, about the opposite of heaven. Not ready to add to the things on his mind, and certainly never wanting to scare him into the gift of salvation. And so...what to say next?
"You won't be alone, Ty, but you'll be far away from God. And that's worse than being far away from Mommy and Daddy. Asking Jesus into your heart doesn't mean you'll go to heaven today. It just means that when it's time, when your life here is over, you'll go to heaven then. Like Daddy. I'm not going today, kiddo, but someday I will."
The backseat fell silent. He stared out the window, and moments later he began a riveting game of I Spy. Because this is the mind of a preschooler: flitting about, touching down just long enough to find home base. And then he takes flight once again.
But my mind lingers on his words, our conversation. His questions, my struggles to answer.
I worry sometimes that my children will resent God for what has happened so early in their childhood. That as they begin to truly feel this void, as they begin to lean into the questions of why, the meaning of will, the truth of sovereignty, their hearts may become hard.
I worry about this. It's easy to.
Their questions are many; my answers are few.
But then again, maybe it is not my job to provide all the answers. It is simply my job to be present, to show them what I know, to show them I have lots of questions too.
Ultimately, my children and I have the same Father. Yes, my dad is still alive, and he's quite the Poppa to my little guys. And to my daily sorrow, my boys don't have their daddy to laugh, wrestle, play with, and learn from.
But we have the same Abba. He loves them as he loves me.
And just as God has molded and shaped my heart, just as he has teaches me and continues to sharpen me each day, I must trust him to do the same for my children. Their hearts belong to him.
Their faith is theirs, and it belongs to God. My calling is high, my role is irreplaceable, but their hearts belong to him.
And so we wade this path, one question at a time.
Their anger, their questions, their wonderings, and their conclusions... I hand them all to God, the father of the fatherless, the defender of the helpless.
And I earnestly beg him to show me to what to say, as these conversations emerge on the drive to preschool.