(photo from Dragonfly Creative Marketing)
On Saturday, my daughter and I drove to Michigan. Billboards line the highway and most of them are for car dealerships, shopping centers, and gentlemen’s clubs. I have driven this way many times and have become a bit numb to these signs. This time, though, I glanced up from the road at one point and saw a sign that said: “If you die tonight….Heaven or Hell?” I knew my answer, but thought I’d ask my daughter. I glanced in the rearview mirror and saw her sweet, life-filled, 12-year old face looking at me.
“Did you see that sign?” I asked.
“No, I didn’t.”
“It asked this question: 'If you die tonight, are you going to heaven or hell?' What would your answer to that question be?”
“Heaven!” she said. I smiled.
“How come heaven?” I asked.
She looked at me, raised her eyebrows, and said: “Because I’m good?” As the words came out of her mouth, I wondered immediately if I had bitten off more than I could chew with this one. How could I look at this sweet girl who owns my heart so completely and is genuine and loving and courageous and tell her, “No, you are not good. You are full of sin.” I did not say this. But, of course, I also could not say and did not say, “Yes, because you are good.”
“No, my love. Not because you are good, but because of Jesus.” Now, the idea that eternal life is our future if we would only receive the gift of forgiveness from Jesus, is a tough idea for adults to accept. After all, we have been taught all our lives that being good gets you where you need to be. From very early on, we get affirmation, pats on the back, allowance, rewards. So is it any doubt that we would believe the same rules apply when it comes to obtaining eternal life – that is, that we must achieve it?
I know from experience, not to mention Scripture (Romans 3:10-12), that this sweet girl in the backseat will grow up a sinner. She is already there in ways I don’t even know. It’s a difficult reality to face. I would prefer to think that she is good and always will be. But as difficult as it is to think of her as a sinner, it is nearly impossible to think that she would spend her life seeking to earn her way to heaven and somehow overcome her sinfulness by trying hard. I have been on that road – what a hard, guilt-filled, and ultimately fruitless road it is. I want her to live in freedom in Christ, not in bondage to unending ladder-climbing. So, I will remind her as often as I can that the work has already been done and now she is free to live and to do the good works God has prepared for her.
As I thought all of this in the car, and as I think it now, it brings me to tears. I thank God every single day, often multiple times a day, for saving me, for what Jesus did for me by taking on my sin and clothing me with his righteousness. And every day, I thank God for my daughter and all that she is. I pray that he would reveal himself to her during her day. I pray that as she walks around school, she would feel deeply, unendingly loved. I had never thanked him for saving her, though. Until Saturday. For the first time, it sank in: we share a Savior! Oh, how I love this! For as long as I have breath, I will fall on my knees in thankfulness that his grace reaches her.