From behind me, strapped into his carseat, came the question: “Where do God and Jesus live?” Never a dull moment with this kid. Can’t say this is the most spontaneous conversation he’s sparked heading south on 183. “Everywhere,” I hastily responded. “They live in Heaven—I mean I know they live in my heart—where’s Heaven?” Satisfied with my original answer, I repeat it: “Everywhere.” “I thought it was up there,” he says pointing up. “Heaven’s everywhere, bud.” In the rearview mirror, I can see the confusion sweeping past his face with the potency as if we’ve just driven by a dead skunk. Clearly, this inquisitive 5 year old is bewildered by my albeit unconventional geography of the afterlife. Shouldn’t daddy know better where Heaven is, after all he is a pastor!? I can’t say I don’t enjoy these seeking theological discussions with my son; but gee whiz he puts me on the spot. Make sure you choose your words carefully, because this kid will remind you of them verbatim 6 weeks from now when you’re doing something completely unrelated and not prepared to rehash the conversation. Oh, the incessant why, why, why, but why, why, whys. They’re a bit much for the father tapped dry of responses after a long day. Yet, I pray he never loses his passion or persistence in questioning.
In reflection, so many things could be said about this exchange with my enthusiastic eldest born. With more caffeine (and a hint of clairvoyance), I might dive deeper into the topic of Heaven and its locale—both geographic and theological. The heavens we read about in Scripture is different than the place on high, which we’re told by many in the church that we need to gain access to through a life of piety, er, faithfulness. Sacrificing its ubiquity, we continue to make this paradise above the clouds into a spiritual gated community of our own control and monitoring—mirroring our idolatrous domestic actions here and now in this life. Walls save angels! I could make the argument that we’re doing our children a great disfavor when we continue to erect this three-story eschatology. Alongside instilling fear and great confusion, we misappropriate the afterlife as the ultimate end of the faith journey. What, then, is salvation? Or, we could go back to the beginning and address the apparent error in dividing God and Jesus—a systematician’s nightmare. Has Sunday School taught him nothing? 😉 The two are not separate, rather Jesus is God incarnate (in the flesh). This could then lead us down a discussion on the three persons of the Trinity, and an accompanying illustration of God as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; yet also noting that there is a distinction (though not division) between each of the persons—one is not the other, vice versa, and so on. But, oh, how that gets tedious, and next thing you know you’re midway through reciting the painfully exhaustive Athanasian Creed and everyone else has checked out. Still, all of this in consideration, let us not forget that the en route conversation with my son—no matter how theologically fraught—was initiated by none other than a kindergartener. I’m not sure if I should be more amazed or startled by this. Beyond the content of the conversation, we could even look at the importance of encouraging and engaging these such occasions when the wheels of imagination start spinning and our children want to explore the intricacies of faith with us. Uhhhh, I’m not prepared for this! Ask someone else. How do we nurture questioning at an early age and affirm its value in the journey of faith? The topics, ideas, and possible conversations branching out from this short exchange are endless. The mind of a pastor…
So, why share this with us? What’s the point? Is there some lesson to be learned, a paradox to ponder? Honestly, no. In some ways, these few days later I’m still the father tapped dry of responses after a long week. It’s been one of those where I’m just good and tired—nothing more, nothing less. If something of this blog post brings fresh enlightenment or connects with something in your personal life, than we’ll just chalk it up to the mysterious stirrings of the Spirit. I share this short story from Monday afternoon in the car with my oldest child, and the random pattering of personal thoughts that followed, simply to shine a light amidst the fog—temporarily slowing down to see a moment for what it is. Reliving the exchange. Pondering the depth of both the words and possible responses. Asking questions. Smirking and chuckling along the way. Shaking my head in disbelief. If after reading this, you think to yourself: “Hmm, interesting. Didn’t learn anything, but still interesting” than it served its still quite nebulous purpose. I guess I hope you consider shining a light amidst the fog when it settles around you.
– Pastor Andrew