Lucas now stalls bedtime almost nightly by engaging me in questions about God (this being Advent and him being almost 6 and all). And he’s got me pegged, because I often let waaaaaaay more talking occur when he starts in on that topic.
He’s smooth like that.
To be honest, we really haven’t done a lot of “God talk” in our house. We pray before we eat dinner, we celebrate holidays, I go to Bible studies, and he knows I believe in God — but directly relating to Lucas? No, I haven’t really gone into much of it. I made this decision partly because Lucas is so bright, I knew he’d immediately get into questions and topics that a 3-4 year old brain wouldn’t grasp. He’d worry more than anything else. He can literally find a hundred frets in a single sitting. I also chose to go this way because I feel there is a distinct difference between a faith of culture (family, school, upbringing) and a personal faith based on ones own questions, observations, learning, and conviction.
I want to keep the fire burning and the conversation accessible – but I also want my sons to steer the direction of our conversations and the depth to which we discuss these things. So until now I have kept the bigger discussions at arm’s reach. Waiting until questions came up from his own mouth and working hard to answer only what he asks.
The funny thing is… he doesn’t “ask” much. Rather, he makes observations – statements – and then asks if what he’s saying is correct/accurate/true. And that is awesome because it directs the conversation away from “teaching” and towards “discussion,” even at this early age.
It gives me space to honor all I do not know, while still speaking with heart and conviction about all the things I believe deep in my soul.
Cue tonight’s bedtime beauty:
We have a nativity scene and, being Advent, have talked about the Christmas story many times the last few days. Lucas loves the Christmas story (his four year old retelling video is a perennial favorite in our household).
I don’t have a book, so my words vary every time I tell it, and so tonight when I retold it I used a phrase something like, “And so God came to Earth as Jesus to live with us here and teach us how to love one another.”
Maybe I have never said it like that before. Whatever. All I know is that at 8:45 tonight, fighting sleep, the lad says to me, “So Jesus is God?”
“Yes, I believe He is,” I reply.
“And God is like air because he’s everywhere all the time all around us.”
“Sort of, yeah.”
“But Jesus was a person… so was God like air but inside of him?”
“That’s a good way to explain it, I guess.”
And then he said,
“When Jesus died then, it was like a balloon popping. The air used to be inside, but then it popped and the balloon is broken. But the air is still the same air, only now it’s back floating everywhere again – not just inside Jesus anymore.”
Now we haven’t really ever discussed the fact that Jesus died in any great detail or any of the nuances of what his death means for Christian faith. He hasn’t asked. I haven’t gone there. But I loved this visual he created. Like a very simplified visual description of the Holy Spirit.
And I told him so. I said, “I really like that Lucas. The image of the balloon and the air being the same no matter if it’s on the inside or the outside. When Jesus died he wasn’t gone because God inside was just released back to God outside.”
And then Lucas says to me, “God is like air in our bodies too. And when we die, it’s not bad because the God air just goes back out and mixes with God again, right?”
And I sit in silence for a moment — amazed to watch my son lay the foundations that will be used to talk about hard things in our future. To watch him figure and fidget with the idea of death in such beautiful ways that are sweet and simple.
And so I simply said, “Right.”
Andrew had fallen asleep cuddled next to me long before, and so with that I gave Lucas a final kiss goodnight, whispered my nightly sayings, and took my leave, so thankful that tonight I allowed the extra time awake.
Advent is my favorite season of the Church year – and one I have always held dear because is a season to talk about birth and life and hope and light. But tonight my literal lad immediately, without prompting, brought the discussion back to the facts. Because if we are celebrating birth and life and humanness — we are also speaking about death, right? About the whole package complete with joy and hardship and lightness and pain?
We don’t get to be human without both.
While my discussions with the kids this Advent will continue to focus on that sweet little baby and the fun and joy and lightness it brings — I know my own reflecting this Christmas will be deeply enriched because my son has reminded me to consider the bigger story — the life and death that followed that birth.
But more than that — this season I get to celebrate my belief that death isn’t an awful fate, dark and horrible and nothingness. Because I, too, believe I’m just a balloon — carrying my soul inside, doing the best I can in this body I’ve been given — until the time when the air gets to be released.
The air doesn’t change.
The air remains as it has always been.
The air in me. In my sons. In Jesus.
And in you.
Let me turn my eyes to that beautiful air as often as I can — both in myself and in others. I don’t care what you choose to call that “air” in yourself, whom you thank for it, or if you believe in it at all — but know that I see it in you all the same, and I think it is beautiful.