Quoted from my six year old daughter. With a bit of depression in our family history, I anxiously asked her why? Her answer: “because when I die, I can go to heaven!”
I’m not quite sure what her ideas of heaven are, but probably some version of a Disney-like fairyland. Already at six years old, she is being exposed to Christian theology, from books, from her Christian school, and from us. Somehow, her experiences are shaping her ideas of what heaven is and that it is a place where she longs to go after she dies. This is revealing of the popular Christian thought that heaven is a place, a happy place, that one goes after death. When loved ones die, we tell our kids they’ve gone to heaven as a way of comforting them (and ourselves). What I’m concerned about is that then limits our Christian hope to that life after death. And in simple six year old logic, the natural response to this theology is to “want to die.”
Here’s what I said, in a feeble attempt to guide her into the type of thinking Jason and I have come to adopt, that Heaven is here right where we are. It is already here! Each time she shows that she loves her brother (we are heavily indoctrinating her on this issue, as the daily fights are really getting to me), respects her parents and teachers, forgives a friend, that is where we can see a little bit of heaven. And Heaven is wherever those sorts of things happen: when someone is lifted out of poverty or oppression, when peace and reconciliation occurs between relationships, whenever love is demonstrated in acts of kindness, words of encouragement. It’s not just about us and where we go after we die, it’s about God doing His work, bringing His world to us. I think this will take her a while to comprehend because I hear six year olds are developmentally egocentric.
If anyone knows of good Christian books for kids, I’d love to get some recommendations to help supplement our child rearing.