Jalynn almost killed a caterpillar last week. I was sure he was a goner when he slipped from Jalynn's still-toddler-like hands onto the cold tile kitchen floor. Panicked, she scooped up his limp body, petting him gently until he got his wiggle back. The joy of the miracle didn't last long, though. Minutes later, when J went to place him into the hard plastic insect cage that she and Daddy had furnished with cucumber slices, leaves, and several snail friends, her less-than-ginger release resulted in something that sounded a lot like "splat." The little green guy lay curled up, motionless.
In my very serious Mom voice, I informed her that he was probably dead, and gave my best "you need to be gentle" lecture to date. Jalynn's context for the concept of death is limited, at best. A couple months ago we came across a beautiful—but relatively foreboding—illustration in The Big God Story of the three crosses standing upon Golgotha. At first she was scared. Scared of the cross. Scared of "Jesus died-ing." Even scared of the clouds and thunder that accompanied the saddest hour in history. Soon, however, her fear turned to fixation. Every time we drive by a church or see an intersection sign, she shouts out from her backseat booster, "A cross, Mommy! A cross!" And each time we talk about it.
Me: "Why did Jesus die on the cross?"
Her: "Because He loves us so much."
Me: "What happened next?"
Her: "He got alive again!"
Sometimes Jalynn starts singing about the cross. Sometimes she asks me to pray about it. Sometimes we even talk about sin and forgiveness.
Sometimes we don't.
Tonight as we drove into the parking lot of the Chino Hills Public Library, Jalynn saw a cross on the steeple of a Catholic church across the street. The ensuing conversation was pretty typical. Only this time she told me she was sorry for all the bad things she did. She wanted Jesus to forgive her.
I parked the car and climbed into the back seat, popping a pacifier into Malakye's mouth—his temporary mute button. J climbed out of her seat and scooted her bottom next to mine. Eyes open and hands held palm-up, Jalynn prayed. She said "sorry" to Jesus, and she thanked Him for "died-ing." I helped her with next part. She didn't know all the words—but she understood them with more faith than I could dream mustering, even on my good days.
An hour later, she burst through the door, giddy.
"Daddy, I have Jesus in my heart!" she announced. "And the angels are having a birthday party for me in heaven."
Tomorrow we're going to bake a "Jesus in My Heart" cake and party like angels.
Anyone know if caterpillars like cake? Maybe we'll share some with our little friend, who, somehow, against all odds, "got alive again ... and again."