When it comes to religion in our home, I’ll admit it is pretty nonexistent. I believe in God and have my own interpretations of the bible. The husband refuses to attend church, and to be honest, after it was pushed down my throat for 14 years I’m not real fond of it it either. I remember the Bible fairly well and do find myself in religious debates more than I’d like. Maybe I’ve never found the right church or maybe I’m just content with my beliefs.. who knows? With that said, I’ve had very limited conversations with my children about religion. I figure when they are of the age to really understand we can have that talk and they can decide what’s right for them.
Tonight the kids asked me to take them out to see if anyone had Christmas lights up. While we were riding around I heard Coby (my 5 year old) say Jesus Christ! Now, that is not a word I just toss around, so I knew he had not heard it from me. I cut the radio off and quickly asked him where he learned that from. He had no answer, so I asked him if he knew who Jesus Christ was. He said “I don’t know who he is. Is he a man mom?”
I figured since we were out looking at Christmas lights and the holiday is associated with religion, now would be a good time to talk to the kids about God. I explained to the kids who God is and Jesus in a way I felt would be easy to understand. The younger kids did not understand why Jesus died on the cross for our sins or what sins were. I figured talking about the 10 Commandments of the Bible would help explain sinning and why Jesus died on the cross for us. Boy was I wrong!
I still remember the 10 Commandments word-for-word but was not sure of the exact order. As I was talking about each commandment, I explained what each means. Questions were being throw at me faster than I could answer and I found myself at a loss for words when Tela (7 years old), asked what does covet your neighbor’s wife mean. At a loss for words for a few moments, I figured it would be better to tell her the truth than to make up something. Que (15 years old) tuned in for this one with a smirk on his face.
While I tried to figure out the best way to answer this questions, I realized that I had to explain a few things; rules of marriage and adultery. Do my kids really need to know what adultery is? I’m not sure, but I wanted to give her the truth. As I began to explain the values of a marriage, I delicately added in the topic of adultery in a non-vulgar way. She was tuned into everything I was saying as if she was a teenager that really could comprehend what I was saying. The rest of the kids turned to look at the big cream house covered in blinking Christmas lights.
After that fun explanation, Desi (8) wanted to know more about the other commandments. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor was the next to pop in my mind. As I told her that it basically means you should not lie, I could see a look on her face of concern. She asked what happened to people if they did not do what the commandments said to do. My short answer was “they go to hell and burn for all eternity”. “What’s hell?” she then wanted to know.
I realized then that this short conversation was going to turn into a very long conversation I was not really in the mood to have. Not because I don’t want my children to know, but because it’s been so long since I’ve step foot in a church or spoke to a Pastor, I felt like the info may be better coming from a third party who actively participates.
Images of the parts of Luke 16 begin to fill my mind as I remember. Frightening pictures of hell, fire, and everlasting punishment flash through my mind as I try to find the word to explain what I was taught hell is. “It’s a place that bad people who don’t follow the 10 commandments go where people are tormented and burned on fire for all eternity”.
Suddenly the entire truck was silent. Looking in the rear view mirror I could see Desi start to cry. I asked her why she was crying and she yelled “I’m going to hell”. Lost again, I asked her why she thought she was going to hell. With a cracked voice she replied “because I’ve lied to people before”.
That was not the direction I wanted this to go. I wanted to explain to the kids about Jesus and why we celebrated Christmas, not spend the entire trip home trying to convince my kids she was not going to burn in hell. My heart began to hurt as I felt like I just inflicted pain unto my child and that was never my intention. I pulled over and turned around to tell her that she had nothing to worry about and she had her entire life to be good. After a few minutes she stopped crying and started looking at the view on the way home.
Since we were almost done with every commandment but one, I thought it would be a good time to toss out there that the kids should honor their father and mother. I explained that means kids should listen to what their parents say respect them at all time.
The truck got quiet again and Tela starts screaming. I mean screaming loud and crying like I was able to run someone over. I slammed on the breaks thinking she saw something I didn’t. When I realized I was nowhere near hitting anyone or anything and everything was fine, I started to yell. My heart was racing and I felt like I was about to have an anxiety attack. I looked at her and began fussing at her for scaring me like that. While I’m trying to tell her she could have caused me to wreck the crying increased. “I’m going to hell too”, she yelled at the top of her lungs. “Now I have to get burned with Desi because I don’t listen to my mom”.
Holy cow, I just thought my kid had some kind of premonition or I was about to kill us all and she is upset about burning in hell! Way to go Tara! You’ve just scared the living hell out of your kids-literally.
I never intended to scare my kids and I surely don’t like to see them upset. Feeling like a complete failure as a parent I tried to explain to the girls that they did not have to worry about any of that stuff because they were young. I mean, what else was I supposed to say? I was at a loss for words again and had no clue how to recant what I had just told them. All I could do was cry with her.
The ride home was pretty silent. I think the girls were trying to process everything we’d talked about and the younger boys really didn’t understand.
After we got home and started getting ready for bed, Tela and Coby asked me at least 10 times if they were being good. As I confirmed with them that they were being good all I could think about was scaring my kids away from religion. As I tucked Coby into bed he wanted to know where Santa lived.
Great! After this long talk about God, Jesus, and the 10 commandments, now I need to lie to my child about Santa. I just told the kids it was a sin to lie and here I am getting ready to tell one myself. As I told him Santa lives in the North Pole, the flashes of burning fire and gnashing of teeth raced into my mind. I don’t want to lie to my kids and I surely don’t ever want to burn in Hell, but I don’t want to steal the innocence from him and ruin one of the fun parts of Christmas. But then again, he did just overhear the conversation about adultery, so his innocence may already be gone.