Our children’s memories of heaven are still so acute and so much part of who they are, we need to remember that they are already so close—much closer than we are—to God. It is natural for them to be kind to other beings. When we look into their eyes, we should see this kingdom come and nurture it, so they don’t lose it like so many on this earthly journey do, letting a competitive spirit take over. When our daughter was in the womb, before we even knew she was a she, we asked her about her life being cradled by angels and saints, getting kissed by Mary and Jesus. And our awe with her perspective hasn’t ceased.
They should see us every day in our spiritual practice, and I don’t mean just an hour of sitting still and meditating, or whatever. I mean, they should observe in everything we do, that we exude grace and deep joy in the tasks, whether it is reading them stories, building our house, singing and dancing, visiting neighbors and family, cooking dinner, disciplining, and so on. It is a great idea to meditate with kids but they must then let that cultivated peace and gratitude overflow into their actions and interactions. When we mess up they should see us recognize our wrongs, atone for them, and change our behavior.
I also don’t mean when I say ‘spiritual practice’ that it necessarily implies partaking with us in corporate worship at church, or even joining Sunday school or catechism classes. Joshua and I are still undecided in whether or not we think it important on the spiritual walk to formally learn about God in a school-like setting. We do have faith that eventually God will lead us down the right path regarding this, but in the meantime, it doesn’t hurt for the kids to come sit with us during mass, see their mother lead the psalms and hymns, practice respecting their environment, visit other pews where they share their happiness with different parishioners, and be blessed by the priest as we receive the Eucharist. All of this religious stuff can confuse young people, I agree. Yet if we are transparent within the family, allowing open dialog regarding faith and doubt, it doesn’t have to.
Joshua and I met while working as wilderness guides to adjudicated teenagers. Every night we sat around the campfire and passed around a ‘power object’ –whoever held it could speak—and talked about the day. Everyone looked forward to this ritual because it was the time we could get off our chests something deep, either about the day or about our pasts, in a safe place where it was the norm to bare the soul; an opportunity that didn’t often come up in the light of day while joking around, focusing on meals or navigation or whatever other survival work we had to accomplish. We hope to reenact this practice as a family communion time, once our kids are old enough to share.
We decided before the babies were born to get into the habit of not using the possessive to indicate objects. For instance, instead of saying, “Have you seen my sunglasses?” we’ll say, “Have you seen the sunglasses that I wear?” This may sound compulsive to some, but we do not want to raise our kids to think that the things they use belong to them, as everything is a gift from God to be used when needed. It will indeed be a hindrance to spiritual development (or any development for that matter) if kids are attached to things and don’t want to share, let alone give willingly and joyfully.
This way of being, is something that binds me and my husband, for before we even met we individually took personal vows of poverty, to sincerely take inventory of our lives and have only what is necessary, not giving into egotistical desires. God’s provision is adequate and a blessing, because we are not bound to wealth. We are not constrained by money worries, despite our poverty.
I’m not so naïve to assume I can mold God’s entrusted children to us into what my mind perceives to be the perfect souls. Despite seeming so dependent on us and precious to our hearts, I occasionally need to remind myself that they are God’s children and it is their work to accept or deny salvation, to live by heavenly principles or to relinquish them, to lose their lives for God’s sake or save them for the sake of this world. Should they eventually decide to pursue material success and live very differently than how they were raised, I will be okay with that because I love them and rest knowing that their spiritual foundations will be forever present.
Thinking back to what my parents did to foster my spirituality, it was neither through regular church service or daily Bible readings, but they instilled in me a reverence for the universe and an inclination toward the divine mainly by stirring my curiosity and encouraging me to write what I imagined. They provided love and comfort, but let me alone to develop my own relationship with God (though I wouldn’t call it ‘God’ back then) through solitude and self-discovery. My father would lay his hands on my head at bedtime and pray to God, thanking him for “His beloved daughter, in whom I am well pleased.”
If any of you have wondered about how to raise spiritual children in an increasingly hedonistic world, or have done so, please share some thoughts/advice. Thank you.
© 2016, Amaya Engleking