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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Children and Spirituality

Children and Spirituality

Child Psychologists tell us that even very young children ask the kind of questions that can only be called spiritual.

I have witnessed this first hand when our own son was five years-old and did what he did / does best. He started his rapid-fire questions. On this particular day, he wanted to know about Heaven. “Well, mom how will you know me when I die and we get to Heaven, will we look the same? (How come I didn’t think of that?) And what if I die first? (Things a parent definitely does not want to discuss) Who will be there to meet me if I die first? But our son was such at peace with that discussion.

Fast forward a few more years, that innocence begins to wane. The child needs a little more proof of God. So they grab a hold of the tangible or abstract and embrace what represents their faith. That is why the WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) or PUSH (Pray Until Something Happens) bracelets are so popular. It gives them / us something to hold onto; which reminds me of the story of the little boy and his father.

“So the Word became human and lived here on earth among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen His glory, the glory of the only Son of the Father.” (John 1:14)

I heard the story of a little boy who was frightened one night during a big thunderstorm. Terrified, he called out from his room, “Daddy, I am scared!”
His father, not wanting to get out of bed, called back, “Don’t worry, Son. God loves you and will take care of you.”

There was a moment of silence. The little boy said, “I know God loves me, but right now, I need somebody who has skin on.”

Soon the older child becomes an adult, they focus more on Jesus Himself. What happens to us as adults that we lose the innocence and simplistic relationship with our Savior? We get into a role of rituals, expectations and performance.

And the stories continue:

Sometimes, our great and awesome God seems almost untouchable. But Jesus came. He was God with skin on, walking among us and showing us what God is like.

I think C. S. Lewis put it well: “The Son of God became a man that men might become sons of God.”

(Proverbs 22:6) “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it”

Where does church fit in for the child? In the young child, the parents are the soul (I meant soul) role models. What are mom and dad doing? As the child grows older, their peers become their models. Good or bad! What is going on in the church for the youth? Are the people of the church helping raise and mold the young? Children are very pliable at this age and into their teens. Are we more focused on their appearance than their worth? Or do we love them right where they are?

In a sad state, my daughter is away at college. She worked fast food for some time. The day came when she told me that she did not like to work Sunday afternoon’s. I asked why of course. Hoping / praying she was going to say she needed to be in church! She said, “The people coming in from church are the rudest.” At an age where my daughter needs to be ministered to, I am heartbroken that this is the message she is receiving. For God is Love! (John 4) Are our children seeing “Church building love” only, in a world of hurt and brokenness? Does our mission end at the doors of the Church?

We are all looking for something, some proof, some hope, and some kind of tangible way to embrace our Savior, whether we are children, teens or adults. For, we are all His little children.

I thought about so many different areas of children and spirituality. I know that my daily encounters are extremely powerful as I deal with the dying. I try to describe it as standing at the doors of Heaven, handing someone over to God. It is beautiful mostly but painful when the journey is over for the families and yes, the children. And what happens with the children.

The children that may be dying and the child watching a parent go. Children do much better with death than adults. And children know when death is near! So many times as adults we try to protect the child. But the children have this connection with God that is so intimate because they just believe (that childlike faith). So, it is best to just be honest with them on their terms.

Children that are dying are at peace. They are well taken care of by the unseen (Heb 11:1). How do I know? Because, of the adults that tell me about the Angels with them, and the children have shared the same. Recently a close friend that recently passed on asked me not to sit in a particular chair. I asked why, and she looked at me as if I was crazy. “Well, because he is sitting there.” “Who”, I asked. “The Angel,” she replied.

If there is a child with a parent that is dying, I let the family decide how to broach the subject with their children but I do suggest honesty. For this situation will stay with the child for the remainder of their life. If not dealt with correctly, children will express their pain in different manifestations.

One more thing and the most important, children lives are very rich with questions and thoughts about God. They are like little sponges. It is our job to help culture, mold and make those lives as rich as possible inside and outside the church. We never know who we are ministering to. But one thing for sure, they are / we are His children.

We are all looking for the same thing…Jesus.

3 little hearts from you...:

Denise said...

A great big amen here my sweet friend, love you.

Nancy said...

What a lovely post, and all so true. Blessing to you my blogging friend..

A Stone Gatherer said...

Oh Connie, it you only knew how much I needed to read this today! I am going to share it on my facebook if you don't mind! I am the Director of Children's Ministries at our church and you have spoke what I have spoken so often! Our leadership needs much prayer as we are facing big decisions that will effect the children! Thanks for pointing out though that the parents are their main examples!!