One of my children is currently dealing with intense issues surrounding identity, life story, and relationships.
There are parts of this child’s history that are difficult. With the help of our therapist, we are carefully navigating how to discuss this in the most respectful yet truthful way.
As a mom, parts of me want to grab this child and run away from all of this. I want to shout, “No, this child is much too young!” I want to protect from the real-worldness. I would selfishly give just one more day of innocence, stretching on into forever if given the chance.
Yet this child is asking questions and so is not too young. The story belongs to my child — I am simply the keeper of it.
I’ve been studying the story of Moses and the first Passover in Exodus:
“Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household… and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight. Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it.” Exodus 12:3,6-7
The instructions must have seemed so strange to God’s people, this protection from the 10th and final plague. The lamb was with the family for 4 days. Did the children of the house become attached to it? Was it traumatic when the lamb was killed, and the blood smeared on the doorpost?
“For the Lord will pass through to strike the Egyptians, and when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you. You shall observe this rite as a statute for you and for your sons forever. And when you come to the land that the Lord will give you, as he has promised, you shall keep this service. And when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the Lord‘s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.’” And the people bowed their heads and worshiped. Then the people of Israel went and did so; as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did. At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock.”
Exodus 12: 23-29
It was as God had said; the Israelite obeyed and were saved. What was it like for them, huddled in their homes, protected by the blood smeared on their doorposts? Were they afraid, waiting for God’s outpouring of power? Did they understand what was happening around them? We don’t know — the scripture doesn’t tell us, but the passage gives me chills every time I read it.
Specifically it says that God’s people were commanded to remember, and when the children asked why, the adults were to tell the children the story. Friends, this is not a pleasant story with sunshine and rainbows. This is a story of death and destruction. Exodus 12:30 says, “And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians. And there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where someone was not dead.”
I do not have all the answers, or even most, to the wheres, whys and hows of teaching our kids the ugliness of the world or even their own life situations. Sometimes I pat myself on the back for getting it right, and sometimes I go to bed thinking the parenting flubs of the day were too numerous to count. What specifically we should tell our kids when, and how, is for every parent to discern with much prayer and wisdom. And let’s give ourselves some grace — every parent is learning on the job, after all.
What I do know is this: God commands that we remember. Together. We tell and teach and remind of God’s faithfulness and His everlasting kindness.
And, in our family we talk. We don’t always get the words just right, but the talking is there. This is not a place of secrets and quiet, but a family where we are allowed to share, even if sometimes we mess up the way we say it. Our stories matter — the beautiful and the ugly together, and we will remember.