It was a late night ride to the airport. Jammies on (almost) everybody. I was banking on them falling asleep.
They even warned me as such: "Mommy, we might fall asleep." No worries, kiddo. Rest your weary head.
A few miles down the road, one of my sons asked, "Mommy, why did daddy die?"
"Because he got really sick really fast, and the doctors couldn't save him."
"Yes, I know that part." He has heard this answer before.
"But why, Mommy?"
His brother joined the inquisition with solidarity. "If God is powerful, why didn't he save our daddy? If doctors couldn't heal him, why didn't God save him?"
An important question, my little men. When children have encountered this degree of tragedy, they are not assuaged by simple, pat answers.
"I don't know, guys. I really don't know why God didn't save him."
"Did God want Daddy to die?"
Okay, God. I'm going to give this my best shot. Please speak through me. Only you know the answers. And my kids are asking.
"Honey, God didn't want Daddy to die. I don't think God wants anybody to die. I think he wanted us to live in a perfect place where nobody gets sick or dies. He created a perfect world - do you remember who lived there, in his perfect garden?"
"Mary and Joseph." A good guess. Another biblical couple, much more at the forefront of our minds this time of year.
"No, it was Adam and Eve."
They pipe up to tell the story, their words and impatience tripping over each other. It's hard to differentiate who knows which part of the story.
"And God forgot to tell them they couldn't eat from the tree, and the snake said they could, and all snakes are bad and want us to do bad things, and they ate the apple because Eve said so."
Um, sort of. Give or take a few important details.
"Well, guys, God didn't forget to tell them not to eat from that tree. He told them. And he asked them to obey. But the snake tricked them, and they chose to eat the fruit even though God told them not to."
"They didn't obey, Mommy."
Ah. These are terms we understand.
"Right, kiddo. They didn't obey. And as soon as they took a bite of the apple, God's perfect world wasn't perfect anymore. Sin came into the world when they disobeyed, and sin has been hurting people ever since. Daddy didn't die because he sinned, but he died because there is sin in the world. Sin makes us sick. It makes us sad. It makes people die."
"Did sin make Jesus die?"
Oh, these questions. Where is a theologian when I need one?
"Well, Jesus died to rescue us from sin. But God didn't save Jesus from dying, and he didn't save Daddy from dying. God let it happen."
"And two other men died with him."
"No, with Jesus." Someone has been looking closely at the pictures in Sunday school, I see.
"They did. And one of them said right then, right before he died, that he believed Jesus was saving the world. And Jesus said, 'Okay, then, I'll see you soon. When you die, you'll be with me in heaven.'"
"And so that man is in heaven?"
"And so is Daddy?"
There was silence in the car.
Thus concluded twenty questions that countless people invest their lives studying.
(And I had thought the little boys would fall asleep.)