Theology At Dinner
The preschooler came up blank. That doesn't mean she didn't get any religion instruction, though. I know the teacher well and she talks about religion all day as she teaches this Montessori-style class, so there isn't necessarily a focused religion lesson. If they are talking about wild animals, they're talking about how God created elephants to have long noses for this purpose and giraffes to have long necks for that purpose. If they are talking about apples, they are discovering the lovely star-shaped pattern of seeds that God placed in each one (cut them cross-wise to see it) and how He loaded them with nutrition. You get the idea.
The first-grader said she couldn't remember. I told her to think about it and we'd get back to her.
The fourth-grader said they had a quiz on the Old Testament. I suggested he ask me one of the questions to see if I knew the answer. The question he picked was a fill-in-the-blank: God made h____ and e____. I answered "hedges and evergreens" for fun and when Zooey tried to protest, I insisted that God did make hedges and evergreens, so I couldn't be wrong. Then I tried "hyenas and elephants" and the kids all giggled. Finally I (correctly) supplied "heaven and earth."
It was really a lovely conversation. And then Edyn, our six-year-old, dropped the ginormous bomb of a question: "When was God born?"
Ummmmmm...yeah. She always does this to me.
It's not that I don't know the answer. It's how to phrase the answer so that she and her little sister can understand. (Zooey tends to get most of that stuff thanks to really good religion teachers at our school.)
I got a piece of paper and a pen because I always do these things better with a visual aide. (When I taught 2nd Grade Sunday School in our protestant years, that flannel board got a work-out!!)
I explained that a mortal being had a beginning (conception) and an end (death). And I drew something like this to show that time line:
Then I said that an immortal being, like an angel, had a beginning (creation) and no end, with this diagram.
Then I explained that when Jesus died on the cross for our sins and rose from the dead, he was able to take our mortal lives and change them into immortal lives. (I skipped over the "immortal soul" part because I thought the girls were too young to understand that their bodies are mortal but their souls are immortal. Zooey jumped in and said that, and they just stared at him blankly.)
And then I explained that God is eternal, so He has no beginning and no end. He just always "IS". At first, I drew it like this:
But then I also drew a circle with arrow heads all pointing in the same direction around it (which I can't recreate here, sorry).
At this point, all the kids were gnawing at their corn-on-the-cobs and nodding, so I was thinking I was getting more points toward that Mother of the Year award.
Then somebody asked what kind of a being was mortal and didn't live forever. Zooey put in a few suggestions like snakes and bats. I threw in wart-hogs, wanting to keep to the "yucky animals we don't like" category.
Then Zooey's eyes filled with tears and he said, "I wish dogs had immortal souls."
Two little girls' chins dropped. They stared at him.
Scooter whipped her gape from Zooey to me and burst into tears. "You mean Lazlo's going to die? Lazlo isn't going to live forever and ever?!?!?!"
Lazlo is our dog, in case you didn't know.
Scooter's tears made it impossible for Zooey to hold back his own floodgates. Before I knew what was happening, both kids were on my lap, sobbing into my shoulders (one on each side -- and let me tell you, Zooey is such a big kid, that was a very dampening experience).
Edyn continued to calmly eat her chicken leg. It's not that she doesn't like the dog. I think she was just really hungry.
Anyway, I tried to console the two devastated kids with the usual stuff. "God keeps track of the sparrows," I assured them, referencing Matthew 6:26. "He's not going to forget to take care a good dog like Lazlo."
"But I'll never see her again!" Scooter cried.
"We'll see her in our photographs and in our memories," I said, figuring I might as well experiment with consolation techniques because I had NO idea how to make this sound okay. "We'll see her in our hearts."
Scooter looked down at her third shirt button.
"But I can't see into my heart!"
I decided I'd said enough. So much for the Mother of the Year award. I just hugged the kids until they thought to call the dog and hug her and assure her of their undying love, and then hugged the kids again until they had cried themselves out.