You try to protect them. You think you have done so. And then you discover that no matter how hard you try, you can't completely shield them from the difficult truths of life.
A few days ago my 10-year-old and I watched an episode of Spongebob Squarepants. In it, Spongebob gets fired from his job at the Krusty Krab because his boss, Mr. Krabs, is trying to cut costs. Spongebob is fired rather than his coworker Squidward because Squidward has seniority. The rest of the episode depicts Spongebob trying various other restaurant jobs (with such success that the other owners end up fighting over and kidnapping him from one another) but ultimately getting hired back at the Krusty Krab because his presence there is so missed.
Some hours after we had watched this episode, Evan asked me, "Mom, what is seniority?" I told him, and after a pause he asked, "Does Dad have seniority?"
There was a world of meaning in that sentence. After my husband was let go from his job a few years ago, we tried our best to shield Evan from the specifics of the situation. It wasn't just a matter of his dad getting fired; it was a matter of it being done by people Evan knew and trusted. We didn't want him to be hurt by that knowledge so were careful not to speak of it around him and to explain the changes in his life in the vaguest terms possible. But ultimately, kids know when something isn't right. They know when their parents are sad. They know when their family is struggling.
I couldn't bear to tell him that no, actually, right now Dad doesn't have seniority. He's only been in his current position, and we have only been in our current church, for a year. So I fumbled for an answer, doing my best to reassure him that things are good here and that his Dad is not in any danger of getting fired the way Spongebob was. But on the other hand I can't really know that for sure, can I? We can't ever be sure what tomorrow will bring. As I write this I think it would have been better for me to tell him the truth: that even though his dad doesn't have seniority in the world, in the person and work of Jesus he has all the seniority he needs, because Jesus invites him (as He invites all of us) to sit at the head of the table, partaking of the finest food and drink even though we have not earned nor deserved it. In Jesus we need not worry about finding our place in the world, because that place has already been determined and set for us, and it is one from which there is no threat of demotion.
Job security? No, Evan, we don't really have that. Not any more than the next guy. But what we do have is the certainty of an eternal place in the Lord's kingdom, a place He created for us two thousand years ago on the cross and one from which He promises we will never be dismissed.