Sunday, August 15, 2010

Death Through a Child's Eyes

"...He said to them, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." (Mark 10:14b-15)

"God made the flowers" of my
daughter's first full sentences
Young children must have been so refreshing to the Lord Jesus during His earthly ministry. By no means angelic, kids at least come by their faults honestly (most of the time). I've taught VBS a time or two, and five-year-olds know exactly what sin is. They are completely without the guile and pride that clouds adult hearts.

Moreover, children have an implicit trust in what they cannot see - God's providence - that adults wrestle to explain away or comprehend on their own terms. When Christ exhorted His followers to receive eternal life "like a little child", He was telling them to put away their self-reliance, preconceived notions, and tendency to expect God to give an account. Just know that the Father is in control, and, I suppose, quit bickering about premillenialism versus amillenialism while you're at it.

Recently, I wrote about God's sovereignty in the face of tragedy. A sophisticated, adult mind (even a redeemed mind) tries to find a reason palatable to human thinking. Sometimes, children do the same thing - when faced with the death of a friend; the loss of a pet; the divorce of a parent. However, what I've observed is that among young children, even through their sadness, they have a deep trust in their Heavenly Father that endears them to Jesus. They don't have to explain away tragedy, because God ordained it. They have, by and large, the eternal perspective often lacking in adults.

Since I have four children, I've seen this at close range. My husband and I are careful not to put a "spin" on inexplicable events that would sugar-coat the loss; we simply tell them that God allows things to happen which, although we cannot understand or know His reasons until we meet Him in heaven, we know His plan is good.

"The Lullabyes in Heaven are so Much Sweeter..."

Yesterday, our church family buried a stillborn infant. The baby, Samuel, was diagnosed with Trisomy 18 in utero several months ago and his parents were told he would likely not make it to birth. Adding insult to injury is the fact that the mother was pressured to "terminate the pregnancy" by "inducing early labor" (euphemisms for abortion, of course) because the child was a lost cause. There was never any hope; they counseled, why not take the easy way out? His mother, of course, refused to do so - entrusting her son's little life to the One Who had given it. When God took him home last weekend, she stood strong through her own pain and was able to witness to those around her of the incredible grace of God.

Driving back from the family's house last week, I explained to my four-year-old daughter that the baby in the mommy's tummy had died. "Oh! That's sad," Natalia exclaimed. (I was five years old when my mother told me about the death of a dance classmate to Familial Dysautonomia. Children, even that young, grasp the permanency of death.) "But the baby's up in heaven now, right?" she quickly added. "Yes," I replied. (Scripture indicates that infants go to heaven, although biblical exposition of 2 Samuel 12 with a four-year-old would be overkill). "So God's taking care of him now?" "Yes." "Well, that's good," she added.

A little later, Natalia asked if the baby would be healed in heaven, and "not sick anymore". I explained that yes; there is no sickness or tears in heaven, and God heals the sick people when He brings them home. "Well, I bet his mommy misses him, but I bet Jesus is holding the baby like this," (rocking back and forth with her arms). She understood how sad his mommy, daddy, sisters and brother felt, and that it is okay to be sad and miss someone when he dies. I explained that we say "I'm sorry" in cases like this, which she did, at the funeral.

"Mommy, is the baby in that black box?" "Yes, his body is in the box, they will bury it." "Yeah, but the baby's up in heaven, right?" "Yes." "And he's gonna get a new body, right?" "Yes." (Being the youngest of four, she's picked up something about the resurrection of the dead.) Thoughtful throughout the afternoon, I could tell she was thinking about her friend's baby brother in heaven - the baby they'd see "someday when we get to go with Jesus". My seven year old son, upon hearing about the baby's passing, exclaimed, "That is the saddest thing I ever heard." All the kids agreed, but they kept coming back to one point: "But he gets to be with Jesus, so at least the baby's happy now!"

Simplistic, maybe; but theologically correct. And with the focus where it belongs: on eternal life; not on this one. Kids really 'get' the bottom line....much better than many adults do, who said to the mother things such as "You're a good person; why would God allow such a thing to happen?"

Several years ago, friends of ours in Bulgaria lost their 13-month-old daughter to Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type 1 (another genetic killer). Our older children, then 10 and 7, were very sad, as we had all been praying for a miracle. God could have healed Bilyana. He chose not to. We don't (and can't) comprehend the reasons why; the children accept that, and don't doubt God's goodness. "He had His reasons; He wanted Bilyana in heaven," the ever-diplomatic Miro explained. Adults lose their faith in a benevolent God over such tragedies; children feel the pain, but know God is not the source of it.

Their simple, unwavering, unquestioning faith in the unseen God Who loves them demands a humility Christ expects from His followers. To truly have an eternal perspective, we must trust God completely - even when the world seems like a very dark and unfair place.


lyn said...

Great post Marie.
You've nailed it by reminding us the importance of childlike faith. We MUST get back to the simplicity of the Gospel, and of everyday living. We must not try and over-think all that comes our way, we will not understand everything this side of heaven.
To trust in God as a child does is something I think most of us just do not get; may He take us back to innocent thinking for our own good.

Thank you for this!!


Ma ~ said...

Someone very close to me is almost due with a baby that preliminary tests showed may have had trisomy 18. Further tests have ruled that out and the baby looks just fine. My heart breaks for your friends, especially knowing the pressure they must have been under to end the pregnancy.

4simpsons said...

Beautifully written, Marie -- and great handling of it with your kids.

Marie said...

Thank you. The family seems to be doing pretty well, under the circumstances...God is giving them grace to get through this. I hope to visit with the mom later this week.