It is an instinct to protect our kids. If you are a parent, you have had those moments where you watch another child mistreating yours on the playground and you want to step in and take charge. You have most likely had at least one “here-comes-a-car-and-my-kid-is-chasing-a-ball-into-the-street” episode where you scream loudly and run to grab the child’s arm. You have probably also had the moments when an all-too-revealing television commercial comes on and you say, “Hey, kids, look over here!” as you try anything to divert their attention from what could pollute their minds.
Those instincts are good. Mostly.
But sometimes our desire to “protect” our children can actually prohibit their growth if we miss teachable moments.
The death of Chai has been one of those moments for my kids. My instinct says, “Let’s not talk about it much. Kids don’t need to think about death, it will just scare them or worry them.” I have fought that instinct and talked a lot about death with my kids over the last week and a half. I think I have learned as much as I have taught.
Of course, when we talk about death, as followers of Christ, we talk about resurrection. For the Christian, talking about death without resurrection is a bit like describing your home to someone and all you mention is how difficult it was to build. “Yeah, but what’s your house like?” they would rightly reply. Death is not the full picture. Resurrection and new life complete it.
This has meant a lot of interesting, humorous, and sometimes Daddy-stumping questions. Here are a few:
Micah- “When Chai died in your arms, how did the doctor get him up to heaven? Did he just walk him over to a chute that sucked him up to Jesus?”
Isaac- “What Chai doin’ with Jesus now?”
Isaac- “Where God’s house?” Me- “God doesn’t really have a house like we do.” Ike- “Where he go night-night then?”
Micah- “Is Chai going to be a baby when Heaven comes down? Will I get to feed him?”
Isaac- “How God make Heaven come down?” Micah- (matter-of-factly) “Ike, he just says ‘Heaven, come down’ and it will come down. He just has to say it.”
Micah- “Dad, if you go to Heaven before I do, will you find Chai so you can show me who he is when I get there?”
Isaac- “When Chai comes out of his grave, I want to sit on top of it.” Me- “Why?” Isaac- I want to ride him up to heaven!”
In all of our conversation about death, my kids have not yet once told me of a fear of death. Why? Because we don’t speak of death as final. We don’t act as if we are afraid of death, because Jesus defeated permanent death on the cross. When we think about the resurrection, that God in Christ takes our spirit to be with him at the moment of death and will then raise our physical bodies and make them perfect upon his return, there is nothing to fear. We begin to take the mindset of the apostle Paul in Philippians 1:21-23 where he says, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain…My desire is to depart and be with Christ,”. We begin to pray as John does in Revelation 22:20. After having the beauty of the new heaven and new earth coming down, John can’t help but long for the return of Christ. This is how my kids are praying now! Come, Lord Jesus. Bring Heaven down. The echo of the Abba Cry from Romans 8 that asks God to restore and renew creation is heard from my children at the kitchen table and by their bedsides in prayer.
My kids have reminded me in this time to look forward to the resurrection. They have reminded me that if what I teach them is true, then why shouldn’t we be at least a little excited for Chai in that he is with Jesus. Why shouldn’t we be praying daily for the return of Christ?
My family now thinks about, talks about, and prays for the return of Christ on a daily basis. Just another way Chai has helped make us more ‘Alive’. Thank God I didn't "protect" them from the truth.