Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Wren’s First Lesson on Death, Easter, and Pain
Wren became obsessed with death early, maybe age 2 or 3. She started asking us when she could die. Dennis and I were a bit concerned at first until she explained she wanted to die so she could hang out with Jesus. That made more sense, so we explained that God put us here to help other people and do His work before we go be with Him.
What was more startling was about a month ago when Wren said she didn’t want to die anymore. Or more accurately, she wanted to die, but there was a fear about it that hadn’t been there before. She was talking to Dennis about this, and it finally came down to the “owies”. She didn’t want to get the “owies”.
I was working this particular night, so Dennis continued to gently question Wren until he discovered the source of the fear of “owies”: crucifixion. Wren has been a very lucky child in the sense that she has never lost a super close relative to death. Her only depiction of death was from her Easter Bible for Me which she started having read to her at age one or two. That depiction of death is Jesus, on the cross, being crucified. “Owies” might not be sufficient to cover it. Wren had no idea you could die in bed at 97 quietly with no nails in your hands or feet.
Several points stuck out and impressed me about this whole exchange when I heard about it later. First of all, Dennis didn’t take the easy route. I think it’s tempting to tell kids that nothing bad can happen to them and nothing bad will happen to people they love because that’s an easy, child-friendly message that even adults want to believe. But he was honest; he said crucifixion wasn’t the only way to die, but that we don’t know how we’ll die before we meet Jesus. Dennis explained to her that as a Christian, it’s pointless to worry about the death part because no matter how it occurs, you get to see Jesus. Wren was 100% okay with this answer, probably because it’s true and because kids can smell lies and distinguish truth better than they’re given credit for.
The next part has taken on more meaning for me daily as I think about it. Wren said she was scared to die; she didn’t say she wouldn’t. This is pretty huge for my kid. She is mellow right up until she’s not, and if she decides not to do something, die or otherwise, there will be a fight. At the least there will be a lot of complaining and digging in of the heels about why she doesn’t want to do it and won’t. All she expressed was a fear of the pain of death; her overwhelming desire to see Jesus still ruled over the "owies" and conquered her fear, even before she knew crucifixion wasn’t the only option. She still had the desire and was willing to overcome in the name of Christ. Jesus means that much to her.
I’m humbled and a bit ashamed to say I’m not sure I possess the faith of my daughter. I’m not scared of death, but do I daily die to myself to live for Christ? What does that look like? What kind of scary, uncomfortable activities does that involve? And does Jesus mean enough to me to go through whatever being crucified with Christ means on a daily basis?
I know the answer to the last question is yes. Jesus does mean that much to me. But I’m feeling in uncharted territory again for my life as I try to comprehend the reality of discipleship, taking up my cross, putting Jesus before everything. The reality that so much of the glaring obviousness of the New Testament has hidden in plain sight from me because I have so easily traded it in for the watered down, tame version that fits in with the American dream of comfort, consumerism, and self is painful. And it’s a good kind of pain in a way because it’s led me to constant prayer about what my daily death is supposed to look like and how to keep the passion for Christ alive in our kids so they will know how to not live for themselves but for the Lord. It’s only through this that we gain a life worth living, the life He died for us to have.