The other night after dinner the wife and I read some Bible stories to our toddler. She enjoys this greatly. Is it the stories? Directed attention from both parents? The simple pleasure of all 4 of us being snuggled up on the couch? Probably a little bit of them all. One story that she specifically requested was the healing of Jairus' daughter (there is a picture from the story on the cover). Now the Jesus Storybook Bible is incredibly well illustrated (with real non-nordic skinned people! Y'know, the kind that live(d) in Palestine!), and well written. Word choices are very astutely selected and each story is given a brief epilogue weaving it into the overall narrative of the Bible. Highly recommended if you're looking for a toddler Bible. And really, who isn't? Back to Jairus' daughter. If you aren't aware: Jairus' daughter dies. Jesus doesn't get to her in time while she is just deathly ill. This brings up a dillema for parents-of-the-two-year-olds reading said story, namely me. Do I read it? I mean, do I tell my sweet, innocent (in a sense), toddler about a girl like her who goes to bed never to wake up? Do I want to terrorize her dreams with such thoughts?
On the one hand, I feel I must be faithful to the text. If I start editing it, where will my opinion about suitability end and the authority of this text begin? This point I'll call the Santa Claus Point. Because really, you start removing death, and what's next? Santa Claus. That's what. Inventing shit out of whole cloth. In case you were wondering, we don't "do" Santa. He's a "silly guy" to my daughter and I'm sure we'll have fun with that again in 8 months. Regardless, when does the Bible stop being the Bible?
On the other hand, I have to consider the innocence of my child with respect to death. She has heard the term and sees that the flowers we have on the table die fairly quickly. She knows there is a place in the backyard where we leave the flowers after they have expired. (Don't worry, the imagery is not lost on me; Psalm 103:15-16). The emotional upheaval of plants dying is enough to persuade me that rushing maturity and awareness of self-mortality should be avoided. Furthermore, a verse came to mind this morning, that Jesus will " deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery" (Heb. 2:15.) Are you interested in kicking off the lifelong slavery? I mean, this is true for everybody once they become aware of their own impending death. Until that point they are free - at least in conscience. They live in the garden of Eden, ready to fall at any time, but in comfortable conditions (they are too ignorant to notice sin everywhere as of yet). There are only 2 states where one can feel this free, ignorance and redemption - and who knows how long, if ever, it will be for the latter? For pity's sake I would extend the former for some time. I suppose a counter argument would be that subconsciously she may know (already) that she is condemned to die, and due to her inherent sinfulness she's already churning with fear and guilt which motivate her ways. To you, St. Augustine, I say: thanks. You're right. But it remains that this matter still flies below the radar of consciousness for a little while. Enjoy it while it lasts?
On the third hand (think Athanasius and Arsenius), there is the damage I may do to the promise of the Gospel. By blunting the power of death and making it only "very very sick" or "extremely ill" I weaken the power of Jesus. If Jesus raises people from the dead, than by removing death I make him smaller as only "healer of the sick." This promise of Jesus, as he who gives life to the dead (John 14:19) is quite precious to me, to the point that I wish to tattoo it on my body. Perhaps soon?
So what did I do the other night? I said Jairus' daughter was very very sick. At least for one more night I'll be able to sleep knowing that she can sleep. Reality, with all it's beauty and tragedy, will rush over us all soon enough, I'm sure. It always does.