“Daddy, Corban doesn’t want to go to heaven.”
My husband, the seminarian, was understandably shocked for several reasons by our 3-year-old’s declaration.
She continued by saying she was going to show Corban how to go to heaven.
“You fold your hands, close your eyes and say, ‘Jesus, please come into my heart.'”
Further investigation revealed that our daughter had learned this from another little girl at the Y.
When I came home from the library, where I’d been working on a writing assignment all afternoon, my husband asked her to tell me what happened at the Y. With a big smile on her face, Isabelle beamed and said, “I’m going to heaven!” Then she told me that she folded her hands and said, “heavenly father, please come into my heart.”
My husband, using his seminary education, had tried to explain to her that loving Jesus wasn’t all about going to heaven, that it was about a relationship and the way we live life now, too. That seemed a bit much for her 3-year-old mind. All she cared about was that she was going to heaven. And it was important that Corban be there, too.
My husband and I are Christians whose spiritual journeys took different paths. He was in church from infancy, as our kids have been. I was not in church regularly until I began seeking God in college. We have friends who testify of faith and conversion at a young age, 4 or 5, and other friends who have children who chose to be baptized in childhood. This has always been hard for me to understand. Because I was an adult, and able to take college-level Bible courses and study the Bible in depth after I gave my life to Christ, I’m amazed at children who make this decision and don’t turn from it in adolescence or adulthood.
“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)
“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14)
I don’t understand all of what Jesus means when he’s talking about children and the kingdom of heaven and how that relates to my spirituality, but I know that love is simpler for children than adults. Isabelle will cuddle up on our laps for no reason, or hug my leg while I’m cooking dinner. Corban will say “uppy” when I’m sitting in the rocker because he wants to sit on my lap. They hug and kiss profusely. Love, for them, is not complicated.
I could learn from my children.
I am thrilled that my daughter wants to go to heaven, but I’m not going to get overly emotional about her recent declaration. My uncle told me this story about my own confession of faith: When I was 5, he asked me if I wanted to know Jesus. I told him “yes.” I don’t remember this conversation, and it was many years later that I made the decision “for keeps.” While I don’t wish that for my daughter, I also know that this won’t be the last she hears of Jesus.
When the time is right, she’ll make the decision for keeps, too.
In the meantime, I pray that God will give my husband and me the strength and presence of mind to live like Jesus daily so that our kids see faith in action, not just in word.
This is new territory for us. So, if you can, help us out:
What are your thoughts on kids in the kingdom of God?
What has been your experience with your kids, conversion and discipleship?
If you made a decision for Christ as a child, what do you remember about it?