We were driving to church Sunday morning when the random and odd question came from the third-seat row.
"Mom, where exactly is 'jail'?"
I assumed there was no passive-aggressive message about the morning ahead of us (pastor's kids endure a long Sunday morning). I explained jail, prison, and the hopeful reform of uncomfortable consequences.
"People end up in prison because they don't know how to love others more than themselves. They do whatever makes themselves happy, no matter the cost to other people or to society. But laws and consequences can't transform the heart," I said. "That's why the way your dad and I parent and love you is important. Sometimes we have to let you learn the hard way to make good choices while you're young, so that you don't have to learn in prison someday."
"This is not a nice conversation," said Boy 2.
I smiled, and let that one go.
Because, well, too bad, kiddo. This is life.
Later that day they would sit on the sofa and ask Mr. Fantastic about the terrorist attack in Paris. We were within blocks of it when it happened. The City of Lights was tense while we were there, and we felt the holy love of God for a frightened people at every turn.
We had avoided the topic with our kids because of our proximity to it, not wanting them to be afraid for us. But the neighbor had mentioned the attack in front of them. Our children wanted to know everything, and even pressed to know if the men who killed the journalists were caught or killed by the police.
We told them the truth, that when a person begins executing hostages, the police end the terror however necessary.
In my heart I know this is only the beginning of these conversations. Our children are growing up in an age of senseless violence, and we are processing with them the love of our own God for a people who have chosen to hate others in the name of a god we choose to reject.
How does God sort it all out? I'm not sure, but I know He does and I trust Him to judge even the most deceived hearts with mercy and love.
And really, while sorting out the ugly details, what can we do to change anything except talk with our children and pray?
After our chat about prison in the car, I spoke a blessing over my children.
"I love you guys. I hope you know God is singing joyfully over your lives today. I pray that you know Him better and that you hear His voice in church today. I hope His presence meets you and touches your hearts, encouraging you to trust and obey Him. May you know Him as your Savior, your Healer, and your Good Father."
There are some lessons only God teach my children, and they come straight out of not-nice conversations.
Because all the journalists and terrorists and hostages of the world were once little children in the backseat of their mother's car. I refuse to miss my chance to open the doors of my children's minds and souls to the most important knowledge.
God is love, and we must love others more than ourselves. All the law is bound up safely for those who choose the way of Christ, the way of forgiveness, and the path of sacrificial love.
Oh, God, that you would seek the hearts of your enemies today, and forgive them of their sin. We lift You high above all other Gods and see You seated on the throne. May your love reign, and may every knee bow under Your lordship. Amen.