Tonight I had one of those conversations with my daughter that I know I’ll never forget.
As I was tucking her in bed, I noticed a pained look on her face. Abby Kate is my thinker. She spends time pondering the things she’s learned. While we were doing our Bible story tonight, I made mention of the fact that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. I guess she had been thinking about exactly what that meant, because when I asked her what was on her mind, she looked up at me and said, “When Jesus died on the cross, did it hurt him?”
I got down next to her face and I said, “Yes, sweetie. When he was on the cross, Jesus was in a lot of pain.” I tried to comfort her by telling her even though Jesus died, God raised him from the dead and because of his death, we all can have life. Jesus DID die, but now he is in heaven and someday we’ll be there with him and all the believers. “I’ll explain all of that to you when you get older,” I told her.
But I could tell there was something more. Abby Kate is also my most sensitive child. She not only ponders things, but she internalizes them. She has literally bawled her little eyes out over some toy or inanimate object that we’ve lost or left out in the rain; it’s as if she has complete empathy for even the smallest, silliest little things. As we were talking, tears began to well up in her eyes. “What’s wrong?” I asked her, pulling her even closer.
“Do I have to die on a cross, too?”
Now I understood. If Jesus died on the cross but now he’s in heaven, does that mean that we have to similarly die on the cross in order to make it there. “No, sweetie,” I told her, wiping the tears from her cheek. “Only Jesus could die on the cross for our sins. You don’t have to do that. You can’t do that.”
We spent the next few moments talking together about who God is and how much he loves us. We talked about sin (in her words, “That’s when we do something we shouldn’t.”) and how even though sin really hurts God, he sent Jesus to take our sin away. We talked about my Mommy and Daddy who have gone on to heaven and how much fun it will be when we can see them and all be together as a family. And we talked about how great it would be to see Jesus and be with him in heaven forever.
After covering all the appropriate theological bases, I asked Abby Kate if she was OK. She assured me she was, so I leaned in to kiss her, pulling the covers up to her neck. As I got up to leave, she had one more question for me.
“Dad, do they have hotels there?”
(me, laughing): “I don’t think so, sweetie.”
(her, all earnest and serious): “Then where will we sleep?”
I don’t know where we’ll sleep, my precious daughter. But wherever we sleep in heaven, I hope we’ll have the chance to remember together our little bedside conversation about theology and atonement and hotels in heaven.
Sweet dreams, princess.