When I was in the second grade, I prayed every night that my family loved Jesus enough, so we’d be in heaven together. Then I worried about a kid in my class and started praying for Kenny because he was a nice guy and it wasn’t fair that he was Jewish and would go to hell.
Then I started praying for all the kids at school I didn’t know were Jewish because you couldn’t tell they were unless they told you. Then I started praying for all the Jewish people in the world because it wasn’t fair that they were born that way. But then I thought I should pray for all the people in China and Africa and India and other places where they didn’t know about Jesus and would go to hell. So every night I named all the religions and all the places I knew. But I worried that I was leaving out people who would have to go hell. It wasn’t their fault that they were born in places or into religions that didn’t follow Jesus.
One night, tired because of my long, long prayers, I knew in a flash that I was wrong. God loves everyone – that was what they taught us in Sunday school. God wouldn’t make anyone go to hell for being born somewhere else or into a different religion. So I simplified and just prayed for everyone everywhere to be happy and good.
Every Sunday in Church I still repeated the phrases about there only being one God and one way. In my heart I knew there was only one God. And I knew God was smart enough to figure it out when people talked about other religions they were really talking about Him in a different way.
After the second grade I never worried about hell, even years later when I realized I liked guys the way I was supposed to like girls. It was difficult. But I knew I was loved. I knew we are all God’s children and He wants us to be happy. And I am.