“Hey, Mom,” he said, dipping his French fry into ketchup. “At school we were talking about how, on average, men are taller and stronger than women, and they die sooner. So I told them, good, that means we get to see God sooner.”
“I suppose that’s true for some people.”
We were getting chicken nuggets and waffle fries on the fundraising eveningthat was apparently Spirit Night for the whole world. It was loud and crowded and filled with interruptions that made me want to take a Xanax, and my kids had theology on their minds.
“I told them I don’t know why suicide is such a bad thing, since it’s better in heaven anyway. And then someone asked me if we are Christian or Catholic, and I didn’t know so I said Catholic.”
We’re not actually Catholic, and Catholic and Christian aren’t actually polarized, and it sure sounds like my son told his friends that suicide is a viable option. But I folded my napkin and sat on my hands, knowing this is a time for listening, not reacting.
“Tell me more about this.”
“They told me that if you kill yourself then your temple will crumble and you go to hell immediately.”
That’s of course when someone stopped by to see if we needed any refills or extra sauces, because of course. Of course now is the time to interrupt the vulnerability from the most important conversations of a lifetime in a culture and community where suicide is a common solution to temporary problems.
“Well, buddy, let’s talk about those things. First of all, we are Christians, and that means we are Christ followers. So we believe what Jesus said. He didn’t say people will go to hell for committing suicide, but he said it’s wrong to kill anybody, and that includes ourselves.”
“And we know that God has numbered our days, and every single one matters. He has a calendar with your name on it, and you get to write the story with him. So if a person kills themselves, they’re ending their story before it’s time.”
“I know.” Whether or not he knew, “I know” is the safe response. I get it.
Then his brother said, “Mom, I don’t know if God is real or not. I mean, people say they’ve talked to him and heard from him, but how do you know if they really have? They could be lying.”
“They sure could,” I said.
“And the Bible could just be a really old book, Mom. It might be nothing.”
“You’re right, pal. It could all be a lie.”
He looks at me, a little surprised that I’m willing to acknowledge this possibility. But if they’re going to trust me, then I have to allow for the fact that I’ve got it wrong.
I said, “Guys, you’re right. It could all be a good story, and it could be nothing. But here’s what we know. Hundreds of years before Jesus was born, people told the story of how it would go. When he would be born, how long he would live, that he would die, and he would come back three days later. And it all happened just the way they said it would. So if that came true, then we have reason to believe that everything else will. Let me ask you this: if it’s all just a good story and not true, if we’re all just made of dust and we’ll go back to dust, then what will happen when you die?”
“Nothing, I guess.”
“Right. And what if it’s all true, there is a heaven and a hell, and there’s a way to get to either place, but we ignored the instructions because we weren’t sure?”
They exchange wide-eyed glances, considering the ramifications.
I set down my fork. I asked them both to look at me. Because if they hear nothing else for all of my talking years, they must hear this.
“Guys, here’s the bottom line: I’m going to heaven. Peter’s going to heaven. Your dad is already there. We need to live all the days we have – every single one. But when we get there, there’s going to be the biggest party with the longest table and the best foods you can imagine. It will be better than anything you can think of. Can I tell you what I want from you? It’s only two words.”
They look at me.