Heaven and Hell

3 Apr

We’re not church-going people. I’m not ashamed to admit it. But I see how my childhood ritual of going to church every weekend is a foreign concept for my daughter.

I was raised in the Catholic Church, and enjoyed some benefts of that upbringing, but didn’t commit myself as an adult to remain Catholic. I also didn’t choose to raise my daughter Catholic. The closest I’ve come to the Catholic Church recently was playing a priest in a short film called “Pearls of Illusion” last year.

For years I’ve visited churches in the Houston area and then in North Texas. My daughter knows the routine. The visit usually consists of the following: we show up, park, walk in tentatively, meet a few friendly people, find a place to sit, enjoy the service, feel better on the way out, and never return.

I’m not sure why going back to the same church seems so difficult to commit to, but it does. I have been moved by the words spoken in numerous churches only to never hear those voices again. So I can’t say it’s a lack of good content that drives me away. If it’s a church with a program or play area for children, that’s even better. But again, all the kid bells and whistles don’t move me to return.

As you might imagine, I try to avoid religious conversations whenever possible while remaining open to spiritual ones. Those types of chats come up with my girl every once in awhile, even without a regular Sunday church visit.

I’m realizing that committing to a return to church involves actually stopping long enough to think about my beliefs. Lately, the only time I actually think about my beliefs is when my daughter asks questions that prompt a conversation about Heaven and Hell. Last night, the chat started with explaining who Satan is and where he dwells.

My daughter was curious about what it takes to end up in Hell. I satisfied her curiosity with a list of specific actions that could lead to someone going to Hell. I’ll let you imagine what those might be. I’m sure you and I may have some of the same acts on our lists.

She has a sense of the environment in Hell: fire everywhere! She explained that she wouldn’t want to be surrounded by fire forever. I assured her that it’s not a place she would be visiting.

I recall a conversation with had about Heaven several months ago. She wanted me to ask her questions about God, and the exchange went something like this:

Aidan: Ask me anything.
Me: What does God look like?
Aidan: He looks like a giant, friendly human.
Me: What does he like to wear?
Aidan: A t-shirt, pants and Skechers.
Me: What does he like to eat?
Aidan: Green vegetables.
Me: If God ate a hamburger, what would be put on it?
Aidan: Mustard, ketchup and bacon.
Marc: French fries or tater tots?
Aidan: Tater tots.
Marc: If God had to watch one show for an entire year, what would it be?
Aidan (whispering): Dora, because he likes Dora.
Me: If God had to choose a bus, a car or a plane to take somewhere, which would he choose?
Aidan: Is he going to school?
Me: No, he’s going on a trip. Maybe a vacation.
Aidan: Then he would choose a plane because it’s easier.

Her desire to understand why someone might go to Hell or have an image of  what God looks like is natural for her age. I can continue to try to answer her questions in my own words or I can choose to expand her spiritual education with help from others. This month, I decided to look for help.

So I think it’s time for another visit to church. While her interest in the subject matter is fresh, and while we’re in the midst of the Easter season, starting a new ritual of Sunday church feels right to me. Then, if I can commit to one place for the next 3 weeks, I might have a shot at becoming a regular.

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