Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Grave Matters

Before the urge hit him
We had a mostly free morning the other day, so we took the plastic recycle to a local grocery store since the local borough council only takes paper, glass, and metals. Another five or ten minutes out of town is the hamlet of Spofford, which has a castle (part of English Heritage) and a charming little church. More on them in another post.

While we were at the castle, Jacob told me he had to go potty and it was an emergency. I thought about going out back so he could relieve himself. Except we met a guy who was raking leaves and tidying up inside the castle (did I say it was in ruins?) and it is part of English Heritage. I don't want to be that American what peed on Britain's proud history.

We had seen a church on the drive in. Jacob said he could hold it till then but not till home. So we drove over to the church to see if they had a toilet. We walked through the gate and the graveyard to the door. Even though it was a Tuesday morning, people were inside. Jacob asked for a toilet. The nice lady went on to explain how they didn't have a toilet, but they were selling the organ and its pipes and when that was all cleared away they'd make a little kitchen and some indoor plumbing so there isn't really a toilet inside yet but we could go back out the door to the left and around and he could relieve himself there as many a gentleman-folk had done before. So we eventually went outside and around the side of the door to a little corner inside the graveyard where the path ended and a little bit of trash had accumulated and bushes blocked the view. Jacob went peepee and felt much better.

Returning inside the church, he told the lady that he had gone potty outside. She said, "You had a party outside? Yes, that's nice." I left her uncorrected. We continued to explore the church till we were ready to go home.

On the way home, Jacob started to talk about the incident. He'd never done anything like that before, so in his four-year old way he called that spot a "portable potty." I went along with this and said it was good he went there and not on the grass where the tombstones were because people were buried there and it wasn't good to pee there. He became very interested in this idea that people were buried there. I told them they had died. He asked when they would get up, which I thought was a wonderful opportunity to talk about the resurrection of the body we Christians look forward to. At the end of time everyone will get up again. Jacob had trouble with this idea of the end of time. We didn't go much farther on that line of questioning.

He asked what would happen after they got up. I said the good people would go with God and be happy with Him in Heaven; the bad people wouldn't get to go with God and would be unhappy. But where would the bad people be? I said, "Hell," mostly to inform him accurately but partially because I was starting to worry if I had said too much and this conversation would get too complicated for him (and, truth be told, me). Or already had got too complicated.

How does God choose who goes where? Wisely or unwisely, I did not go into the role of God's grace in our salvation. Instead, we started talking about good and evil actions and how if you don't ask forgiveness for your bad actions (and we all have bad actions), you wouldn't get to be with God in Heaven at the end of time. We talked about whether something was done deliberately or by accident, if you forgot to ask forgiveness what happens then, actions that are only a little bad which put you in Purgatory, and a bunch of other ideas that were tough problems for even adults to handle.

Jacob started asking about things that he had done, like pushing his sister. He was really concerned about it. He kept asking, "What if I don't say I'm sorry when I did it?" I told him he could say he was sorry now. "But what if I don't? What if I forget?" I told him about the sacrament of confession, where you could tell God you were sorry, even for things that you forgot to confess. He didn't quite get it, but he is only four.

He then said that he was upset. I asked him what upset him. "I have lots of questions; I'm just frustrated." I asked if it was frustrating because he didn't have answers. He agreed that was the problem. I told him to keep asking when he wanted to. That seemed to satisfy him, though he continued to talk about people being underground for the rest of the day.

We went to pick up my wife at work after nap time. He asked her if she was sorry when she had hurt his head. A few questioned revealed that she had accidentally banged his head into the top of the car door when putting him in his car seat one time. She said she was sorry. Jacob replied, "I'm glad you won't be stuck underground forever." Then I had to explain all that had gone on that day.

This conversation is easily the most challenging one I've had with Jacob. With God's grace, I hope to give him the answers he needs to hear.

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