Saturday, March 22, 2008

Spiritual Stuff & Kids

It's amazing to me how my own interests (and probably Eric's too) of a season are mirrored in our children. For example, throughout the past month or so, I've been doing lots of reading on what discipleship of our children looks like within a family. How structured or organic does it need to be? What did God intend for us with regards to the spiritual formation of our children- specifically? We all know we're supposed to "train up a child in the way he should go" but what does that really look like? So I decided to use the Dr. House method for determining what would awaken a sense of spirituality in our children. Try some things and see what seems to work.

So, we started reading a Bible story together every morning while we eat breakfast. I usually eat before the boys in the mornings, and they are more focused and settled at this time of day than at any other, so it seemed like a good opportunity, and it is the one thing we've tried that has really stuck. In fact, Friday morning Eric let me sleep in (AWESOME!) and he got up with the boys and did breakfast. He said that about 2 minutes into breakfast Elijah looked at him and said, "Daddy, where is our Bible story. We always read a Bible story at breakfast." Frequently when I finish one story, they ask me to keep reading to see what happens next. This was especially true as we followed Joseph's journey. Joseph's story has everything a little boy could want and more- jealousy, ripped clothing and blood, a baker who dreams an unfortunate dream and dies 3 days later, a man who interprets dreams, kings, power, a lying wife, and various prison sentences. They were completely intrigued. Yet I wondered how much was really sinking in on a spiritual level. We would pray every day after breakfast as well, and I've noticed a definite increase in their awareness of what we're really doing when we pray.

Friday night we went to the Good Friday service at Southland because I was teaching and I roped Eric into helping me as an actor in the lesson. The boys came along and watched us rehearse. The glow on their faces as they watched their mommy and daddy practice teaching- daddy acting like a firefighter and mommy being animated- was hard to miss. While they usually play oblivious to the world around them while we're in the preschool room, they were glued to what Eric and I were doing- laughing and learning right along with us.

After service, as we were picking everyone up from their various environments, Elijah walked into the preschool room and said, "Mommy, hold on just a minute. I need a second to pray." He walked over to one of the benches in the large group teaching area, sat down, bowed his head, folded his hands and started praying to himself. He was too far away for me to hear him, but he was very intent for a minute or so, talking a mile a minute. When he looked up, I walked over and asked what he'd been praying about. He said, "I prayed for God to transform me... but not today, on Saturday." I laughed and asked why Saturday. He shrugged his shoulders and I told him that God can transform him any day, any time. He said, "oooooohhhh, I get it" and gave me a big hug, then ran off to play somewhere. I'm not sure what all his prayer meant, but I do know that it was one of the first times I've ever seen him voluntarily pray.

Micah has wanted to say his memory verse to me every chance he gets, and Isaiah insists on holding hands while we pray and smiles knowingly when we finish- like he's just done something completely unknown to me and wonderful all the same.

So, morning Bible stories, prayer and having Eric and I involved in an area of ministry where the kids can see us and experience it too, these new initiatives all get big thumbs up. My next initiative?

It comes from an article I read recently and I'm still trying to formulate it, so I'd love suggestions. The article was about the importance of involving children in our worship in meaningful ways- showing Biblical support for the presence and activity of children. The author talks about the fact that in Hebrew tradition, children were the initiators of discipleship. Families practiced many rituals and traditions, and these rituals weren't really to be explained until a child asked, but when a child did ask, the parents were then responsible to explain the tradition completely. Here's a quote from the article if you want to read it in his more eloquent words.

Children (especially sons) were to carry the role of triggering the narratives of God’s redemptive work in Jewish history, which were not to be told until a child asked about the meaning behind the ceremonies. Similarly, children were to inquire as to the meaning behind the “stipulations, decrees, and laws of the Lord” (Deut. 6:20),5 which would in turn instigate teaching about God’s greatness. It was (and still is) the responsibility of children to initiate conversation and storytelling that announces that “The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deut. 6:4). Jeffrey Tigay summarizes the role of children in these celebratory events by saying:
Children will be curious about the instructions and ask about their meaning, just as the book of Exodus expected children to ask about the ceremonies commemorating the Exodus… In answering, one is to go beyond the intrinsic value of the individual laws and explain the reasons for obeying God altogether… Exodus expects children to ask about the ceremonies com-memorating the Exodus. Here, Moses assumes that they will be curious about Israel’s entire way of life.6
Children were to utilize their natural, God-given curiosity to initiate the telling of serious and formative stories about “the essence of covenant theology in ancient Israel.”

So, I'm trying to figure out what kinds of traditions would fit into our family without seeming contrived or forced. What could we do that would cause questions about how or why or what for? This method of learning makes complete sense to me educationally, as it's pretty well documented that people don't learn unless they sense that there's a purpose for that learning. A question provides purpose. Well, long post I know, but that's what's been going on with us. I'll post Easter pictures soon.

No comments:

Simile Metaphor Collection

Elijah after running: My heart is beating like a coconut rolling down a hill.
Elijah on urination: Pee is like horses galloping out of the gate. Once they get started you just can't stop them.
Elijah: If school were a human I'd give it a wedgie.
Elijah: I am like a hot rod and I just want to be a plain old Ford
Elijah on the fruits of the spirit: I've got them all covered except self-control. Its like a tiny green tomato and the rest are all big ripe ones. Especially love. Its like the biggest tomato we saw in the garden tonight.