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A nine-year old girl lays awake on the top bunk in a dorm room in a far-away, war-torn country, asking Jesus into her heart for
what she really hopes is the final time, but it will probably happen again the next night. She clutches her Raggedy-Ann doll tightly to
her chest, tears streaming down her face under cover of darkness. Mommy and Daddy are far away preaching the “gospel” to those who haven’t heard. Even though she wishes she could call out for
them in that moment, she tells herself over and over again that this is a good thing and this is what God wants because, like all the grownups keep saying around her, “we are all playing a part in saving the lost from Hell,” the lake of fire that burns forever and ever. “But what if I’m lost?” she asks herself as she drifts off to another nightmare-filled and fitful sleep. Many years later and continents away, another nine-year old girl races into her aunt’s bedroom in the middle of the night, awakened by a terrifying nightmare. Her own mommy has just died several days before after a long battle with cancer, and this getaway is supposed to give her daddy some space to get the house in order. All she has heard these last several months is how, “mommy
is going to be with Jesus because she has been elected from before the foundation of the world and this is God’s will.” Her daddy preached at the funeral about how not to go to Hell, that place of eternal pain and separation from God, and how to be in heaven with mommy. All anyone has to do is repent and believe the gospel. She’s confused because she had heard in church that God chooses some and not others, and since it’s all up to Him, whatever brings Him the most glory is what will happen. “What if I’m not one of the elect,” she sobs into her aunt’s chest, “what if God hasn’t chosen me and I never see my mommy again?”
I am the missionary kid and I am the aunt.
This is how the chapter that I write in the book, Deconstructing Hell, begins. So many of us have experienced something similar to this or know of those who have. We've said the "magic prayer" over and over again. We've been so afraid for ourselves, our "non-Christian" friends at school, our "unsaved" family members and it has eaten us alive. We've literally experienced trauma we still feel in our bodies from the doctrine of ECT (eternal conscious torment).
Especially when we were kids. I've come to believe that the doctrine of Hell stems from being pushed by FEAR and not led by LOVE, the loose title of my chapter. And fear is a powerful force that, coupled with power and the desire for control, drives us into spaces and places that bring harm, destruction and "hell" here on earth. So, I am saying a big fat "NO!" to Hell. Because I am saying a big fat "NO!" to what destroys, harms and traumatizes. To be honest, all this writing and talk of Hell has been triggering in many ways. Having to unpack my own trauma surrounding it and the anger and indignation and also sadness that has risen inside of me has been quite the ride these past several months. It's why my chapter ends with those same two stories told in the way I wish were true, ways that I believe would have brought hope, healing and life. But I'll leave that to you to read when you get your own COPY. (I do give you a little sneak peek below into one of the vignettes in the middle of my chapter just to whet your appetite.) But for now, one of the best things you can do to know more while you wait for it to arrive on your doorstep is check out the video with the LIVE Q&A Lizz and I did this past Thursday about this very subject. Find out how below. --Esther Joy Goetz
The Podcast Further Further Sneak Peek to Season Three: Season Three is sure to be a good one as our lineup of guests are already giving us the happy jitters. We feel like kids in a candy store with a bunch of coins in our pockets. It's that wonderful! Here are three... Jonathan Puddle. WHAT? The ONE and ONLY Jonathan Puddle. Check him out HERE! Melissa Neeb. From Faith in the Mess! She's dog-gone wonderful! Check her out HERE! Dr. Camden (Morgante Pigg) Purity Culture, we're coming for you! Check her out HERE!
Here are three MORE... Kat Wordsworth. From About Doubt. She's got a cool BOOK and everything! Check her out HERE! Jason Elam. Former pastor, PODCASTER and compiler of Parenting Deconstructed! Annalise Hume. Embodied Faith Project. Spiritual Director. Mom. Evolving Faith speaker. YUP! And now we've got three MORE just to get you even more excited... Jillian Benfield. Author of The Gift of the Unexpected. Special needs mom. Check her out HERE! Glenn Siepert. Dad. What If Project Podcast Host and author of (Re)Thinking Everything! Jamie Edelbrock. Children's book author, mom and mental health advocate. Get her books HERE!
29 days and counting...
Join Our Private Facebook Community and receive access to the recording of this Live Q&A with Lizz & Esther about Parenting & Hell. You can access this by supporting us on our PATREON platform.
Lizz & Esther unpack some of our own thoughts and then work through these four questions:
1. What if someone else tells my child about hell?
2. What should I tell my child about the afterlife?
3. How can I teach morality without the consequence of hell?
4. I can’t stop being afraid hell might be real, even though I’m deconstructing that belief. I randomly get scared I’m wrong and I’m going to burn for eternity. What should I do?
Come join us HERE!
One of the best books Lizz & Esther ever read together in our book club was Inspired by Rachel Held Evans. We still cannot believe she is gone (she was a powerful personal mentor to Lizz), but we are so grateful that her very sacred words live on to heal and transform our lives. If you are struggling with your Bible (which many of us are) and you need a different perspective on the words contained, this is our very favorite resource for you. Undaunted by the its most difficult passages, Evans wrestles through the process of doubting, imagining, and debating Scripture's mysteries. The Bible, she discovers, is not a static work but is a living, breathing, captivating, and confounding book that is able to equip us to join God's loving and redemptive work in the world.
One last thing. We want to remind you that we are so glad you are here. We wouldn't be the same without you. You will always find GRACE for where you've been and who you are now, and SPACE for who you are becoming and will be.
Carry on, our new-found friends. Welcome to the twisty-windy, full -of-adventure faith path that's laid out before us all. Love,
Lizz & Esther
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