A Living Understanding

Like most mothers, I spend a lot of time thinking about my children and how to best equip them for life in this world and the next. And some of the biggest questions I spend time on are: how do you raise children to love the Lord? To trust Him? To maintain faith in the face of an increasingly secular world? To seek the Lord’s help in times of trouble?

In my reading for a doctrinal class I came across this passage:

“God flows into what everyone knows about God, bringing about an acknowledgement of God, and at the same time imparting His love for mankind… if a person receives both the first and the second, the inflow reaches his will and comes from there into his understanding, so occupying his whole mind. Then he makes an inward acknowledgement of God, which bring to life what he knows about God, so that his condition resembles a garden in springtime.” True Christian Religion 457:2

And there is it! A perfect, compact answer to how to attain faith in the Lord. That “inward acknowledgement” that brings the Lord to life in our understanding; that is what I want for my children more than anything. And of course, the Lord has a perfect system for how this happens. And it starts with “what everyone knows about God.”

By teaching children about the Lord, about heaven, and spiritual life, they can develop an understanding of the Lord that eventually goes so far beyond knowledge. It’s so beautifully simple. But maybe what always trips me up is that it doesn’t feel like enough. It doesn’t feel like you’re accomplishing much as you hold your writhing two-year-old through church, or say the prayer, pausing for the 10th time to remind children to close their eyes and not giggle. And so it’s so good to be reminded that that’s the only part I/we can do. Of course it is the Lord who does the real work, the Lord who flows into “what everyone knows about God.” My job is to teach. (And equally importantly, my job is to trust that the Lord will do His part.)

But giving children knowledge about the Lord is a HUGE topic. There is so much to teach, an eternity of knowledge to impart. And as a parent, I find this both inspiring and daunting. What we teach to young children really does matter, and it is no small thing to be in a role where you have a great deal of influence over a young child’s mind, be it as a mother, aunt, sister, cousin, or family friend.

And this has brought me to wondering what otherfocus on. This all feels a little more obvious with school-aged children, at that age they can really begin to learn Bible stories and understand larger concepts about the Lord. I’m particularly wondering about very young children whose comprehension is so simple still, but their hearts the most open. I loved the conversations with my two year old around Easter about the how everyone thought the Lord was gone, and how they were sad, but so happy to find Him again. My daughter would then pipe up at odd moments with “Where da Wword? All gone! Not here. Find Him inn da gawden.” Moments like this are pure gold. And it made me want to hear more. So I wanted to open up a space for others to share their sacred moments. And also to share thoughts on how you approach imparting knowledge to young ones. What rituals do you follow? What conversations do you initiate? What has been particularly well received? What have you found hardest?

Coming across the passage from True Christian Religion was a timely reminder of the power I have to lay a foundation for a connection with the Lord. That it is at least partially up to me to offer my children the knowledge that can one day lead to this “inward acknowledgement of God”, what I understand to mean belief and trust deeper than argument and rational reasoning: a living understanding of our Lord and God. It’s no small charge, and at times I’m sure it will hold many challenges, but also so many moments of heaven. And I know I’m not alone. I would love to hear your stories and your thoughts.

“But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.’” (Matthew 19:14)

About Tania Alden

Tania is a wife, mother and watercolour painter (when she has the time and brain space). She currently lives in Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania but holds a special place in her heart for Westville, South Africa where she grew up. She and husband Micah are delighted and exhausted parents to three young children. As the daughter of a minister, married to the son of a minister, New Church ideas have always formed a central and important part of Tania’s family life, but now as a mother, finding ways to communicate and teach these values to young children has given them a new meaning and power. And it is exciting, and daunting, to know that the journey of spiritual understanding is just barely beginning!

3 thoughts on “A Living Understanding

  1. Tania – I love your article – made me smile remembering the time spent (and still do spend) reminding children to behave in church; from the wriggling, giggling phase, to the adolescent bored and restless phase. Now I see an engagement in church and a real love of the Lord. It’s the consistency of the rituals: reading bible stories at bedtime, bringing the Lord into everything we do.

    We followed the golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. That simple rule is still used in our house (sometimes to rolling eyes), but it has impact. I think the simple things, regularly and consistently reminded are important. Always having candles at the dinner table which they take turns to light and blow out, the saying of Grace etc. I think it’s those things that at any age help.

    One funny story to share from when my children were young. My eldest, who is now 14, when she was 2 nearly 3, we had just arrived in South Africa to live and came to church. Your father (Eric Buss) appeared on the chancel in his white robes and the gold belt and the blue stole with the sunlight streaming in the windows giving him an almost heavenly glow, and she announced in a loud voice; “Look mummy, there’s the Lord!” Such awe…. and it hasn’t really left her.

  2. Hey Tania!
    Thank you for turning the conversation to this. Great things to ponder.
    I guess it is good/scary, simple/complicated that to a young child parents ARE the Lord. That’s why our example is more powerful than book learned ideas. So we just have to embody spiritual values—easy! On the other hand simply supplying ideas and stories like the Lord being found in the garden makes an avenue for angels and the Lord and they do all the work!

  3. Thank you for these observations and questions! It seems that like so many aspects of parenting this one is both simple and challenging.
    My Granny always used to say Oh, the angels really did all the work, or words like that. I think she meant what you were saying here about how there is so much ready to flow in from the Lord if we just make a little space for it. For me the challenging part is that we have to stand in the place of the Lord to the child. I mean to the child and the parents are l God-like. So I had to change in order to represent a better kind of god if you will. That was hard. 🙂

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