Bedtime Theology with the 5 yo...
(During bedtime snuggles)
5 yo: Mom, where is God?
Me: In heaven, with Jesus, but also with us everywhere.
5 yo: Where's Jesus? (Cleary he missed my explanation!)
Me: In heaven, sweetie, and with us everywhere we go.
5 yo: Wait, I thought he was at church?
Me: Jesus? Oh, well, He is there, too.
5 yo: But he used to be at church. That guy. Jesus. He was at church, up in front.
Me: Oh, do you mean the shorter guy with the dark hair?
5 yo: Yeah! But then he left.
Me: Oh, sweetie, that was the pastor, not Jesus. But I can see how that's confusing.
We're in the "is it real?" phase of parenting lately (the above chat is when my oldest was 5). My four-year-old is currently obsessed with knowing if Santa is real, while for my older child, the gig is up. We've been evasive about the jolly old elf, which is probably confusing when I've worked so hard to assert that other abstract beings are real (God, Jesus, Holy Spirit). My Santa answer this year, for the record, is "it's really fun to imagine about Santa!" It felt real this year, I think, because we created an environment where in could be so (Gifts from Santa! Stories about Santa! Cookies for Santa!)
At age four, my son is constantly asking if things are real. Is Olaf the snowman real? No. Jack and Annie from the Magic Tree House series? No. The Wild Kratts? Well, yes, but only the live action part of the show. We're all sad that their magical ship the Tortuga isn't real!
How is Jesus real? What does that really mean? I've written previously about feeling the love of God (whom I can't see) in the sacraments of water, wine and bread and the promises of God's presence when we are suffering. We have scriptures, we have stories and we also have each other. There is a way in which the "realness" of Jesus is real in our home to the extent we make it so.
Jesus is real to us, because we've heard about him in a way that's captured our imaginations. We read stories, pray and look for Jesus' love in the world. At this age of faith development where everything is literal, I don't want to get too caught up in pressing the truth of the "real Jesus" into my children. I'd rather they experience Jesus as mystery and wonder, as story and practice. The story of Jesus was real to me to the extent my mother and faith role models made it so. I try to do the same.
Note: The conversation occurred December 7, 2018.