A couple of weeks ago, tragedy struck the Thomson household.
We thought it might be coming, but it was still a shock. The signs had been there – but I suppose, if we’re honest, we were in denial. We just didn’t think it would happen like this. It was too soon.
Our dear goldfish, Sparkly, shuffled (or floated) off this mortal coil.
Okay, so perhaps we’re not as upset as we made out there. Sparkly appeared in our lives after the grandparents took our toddler to the annual town moor fair. He arrived back happy, full of sugar and clutching this small, orange aquatic creature with a huge grin on his face (that’s the toddler, not the fish).
The grin on our face may not have been quite so sincere given this was unexpected and not particularly wanted.
Nevertheless, after it’s brief life with us (and it’s significant dent in our bank balance!), we had grown quite attached to our fishy little friend. Our toddler had given him his official birth-certificate name, Sparkly, and he’d even given him a variety of other names, playing with his proper name. Our favourite was probably “Sparkelina”. Cute.
When everything went (literally) belly-up for Sparkly, we had two options. The easiest option was to head on down to Pets at Home* (*insert your pet shop of choice), buy a similar looking fish and pop it in the tank – our toddler would be none the wiser.
Or the more difficult option was to tell him what had happened.
And that’s what we did.
We decided that instead of taking the easy dodge (which might have been the right thing to do at other times), we would use it as an everyday opportunity to talk to our toddler about the gospel. We wanted to raise the subject of death, in an age appropriate way. You just never know when he might need to understand death and the comfort of the gospel in a more significant situation.
So down comes our toddler, and we break the news to him that Sparkly has died, and that we won’t see him anymore.
He took it surprisingly badly. “But I love him”, he said. “I want to see Sparkly”, he said. He even said “but Jesus can make him better”. Whilst that’s technically true and totally adorable, we didn’t fancy fishing him out of the wheelie bin at that stage.
Instead we sat down with our little one, hugged him, and spoke to him of the New Creation. We told him about the world that we’ll one day live in. The world where there will be no more tears – no more sadness or pain. No more death. We told him that Jesus will make this new world, and that those who love Jesus will be there with him, forever.
It didn’t totally remove the sadness. It never does. But we hope it took at least some of the sting out of death.
That’s what the hope that Jesus offers does. Is death still sad? Of course. Jesus wept at the grave of Lazarus – angry tears at this foreign thing that should not be in the beautiful world he created. He cried even knowing that he was about to raise him. He cried even knowing he was one day going to remake this world. Because death is unnatural, jarring and wrong.
But Jesus’ weeping wasn’t a hopeless weeping. Nor does ours need to be.
For those who know Jesus, death is not the end.
We didn’t get in to the ins and outs of whether Sparkly would be in the New Creation! But we did try to show our little one something of the difference that the gospel means when death rears it’s ugly head.
Gospel in the everyday – it’s these everyday moments that give us opportunity to show our children how the gospel impacts real life. They’re not always easy, but they’re worth fighting for.