Tuesday, April 2, 2013

"I don't want to go to Bethlehem"

     Last night while tucking Grace into bed I asked her, "Are you my princess?"
     She replied "Yes daddy".
     So then I asked her, "Will you still be my princess when you're all grown up?"  I thought that was a safe question.  Apparently not.  She immediately burst into tears.
     "I don't want to grow up and be a mommy."
     "It's okay." I told her. "You can stay my little girl as long as you want."
     "No I can't", she replied, "because you and mommy will get old and die and I won't have anyone to take care of me!"  By now she was out right sobbing.
     I was still trying to calm her down.  "I am not going to die until you are a grown up lady with kids of your own, so you don't need to worry about that now."
     "But I don't want to get old because then I will die."
     "Grace", I said,"when we die, we don't have to be afraid, because we get to go be with God and we will be together forever."
     "But I don't want to go to Bethlehem.  I don't think Jesus will let me take my checked blankie."

     While that conversation was cute, it was also one of those difficult ones to have.  How do we talk to out kids about death?  I remember laying in bed as a child thinking about old age and dying and it was scary.  I wish I could say that I didn't still have nights where sleep won't come and I'm having those same questions and fears spinning around me in the darkness.  We all fear death.  We may laugh about it or try and rationalize it out of our mind, but every one of us is going to die.  So how do we help our kids deal with death? 

     Many people don't like to talk about death, because they really don't know what they believe about it.  There are also a lot of people today who have no faith.  They think that after death, we cease to exist.  The end.  Those people would be critical of me telling my little girl that we can  have the promise of spending eternity with God after we die.  They would say that I offer a fairy tale to assuage her fears but that I am really only deceiving her.

     I think I am intelligent enough to have looked at my faith critically.  I would say that I have come to my beliefs, not through a blind faith in an ancient mythology, but through a rational investigation of the issue.  I think the vast majority of people today and throughout history would agree with me, that we are more than just advanced animals.  We have a spiritual side that exists outside of our synaptic responses.  We don't stop existing once we die.  There is more to life than this physical world.

     To hold to a world view that says we are nothing more than the molecules we are made of to me seems a very grim and empty view of life.  First of all, to look at the universe and all the complexity that exists from the sub-atomic level to the 10 trillion cells that make up each of our bodies, to the vast galactic clusters and to state that it all is the result of random chance strikes me as a far larger leap of faith than I am capable of.  It goes against common sense and the laws of nature to see complex order and attribute it to random chance.  Yet many people are so resistant to the thought of God that they would invest their life energy denying the truths that any child can see.  Why?  Because if there is a God, then we are not in charge of our own life.  If there is a God then there is absolute truth; there is absolute right and wrong.  That means we can't just pick and choose what is truth for us.

     If there is no God and nothing exists beyond this physical world then we really are just some accident of random chance.  We are told that the universe is 14 billion years old.  The average person live some 75 years.  If we looked at this proportionally and the universe was 75 years old your entire life span would be over in 12 seconds.  There is an estimated 100 billion people who have been born on this planet.  There ate 100 billion stars in out galaxy and about 100 billion galaxies.  Can you even grasp how insignificant that makes each of our lives.  Why worry about human rights and suffering let alone taking care of the planet.  It's all going to gone and burnt up in a few minutes of galactic time.  It won't matter what we do, we have no impact on the universe.  Our lives,even humanity as a whole is quite literally leaves as much of an imprint on the universe and the footprint of an ant.  That is the only rational way to view the world without God that I can see.  Somehow though, even the most ardent atheist lives his life like there is meaning.  Often they are passionate about making a difference in the world.  To me it defies logic to deny the existence of meaning and then struggle for a reason to find meaning in life.

     So Grace, (Will, Caleb, Josiah, and Elijah) I understand that sometimes it is scary to contemplate death.  I am probably past the halfway point through my life and it has gone by awfully fast.  Sometimes I lay awake at night thinking about death, and I imagine that the older I get, the more real it will become.  One thing I can tell you is that I do believe that there is more to life than the 70-80 years we spend on this earth.  I couldn't sleep at night if I didn't believe that life was meaningless.  I also wouldn't tell you something that I didn't believe, just to make you feel better.

     Some people may make fun of me for my faith.  They will ignore the fact that they have placed just as much faith in essentially nothing.  That's okay.  Everyone is entitled to believe what they want. I have come to believe that God created each one of us with a purpose and to have a relationship with Him.  I believe that we have all turned away from God, but that He loved  us enough to take on human flesh and die in our place in order to reestablish that relationship.  I believe that He overcame death and offers us a chance to join him in a world outside of this one once we die.  I don't have to fear death, because it's not until we die in this physical body that we really experience the life we were designed for.  In the Bible, Paul talked about our bodies being like seeds.  A seed was not really alive until it was buried and "died".  Only then would it truly come alive and grow into the thing it was meant to be.  I do believe that that is what death is like.  I hope that someday you all can say that you too have this confidence.

     But for tonight while these thoughts are more than your innocent little mind can wrap around, Grace, please know that I am hear to protect you now and for the next 40 + years (hopefully).  I mean it when I say you can stay little for as long as you want, because I know you won't want to stay little for very long.  When you are scared of the unknown, I will hold your hand.  And while I can't make any promises, if you still want it when you get to "Bethlehem", I think Jesus will let you keep your check blankie.