Friday, August 21, 2009

Missing the ritual a little

Listening to a not overly exciting podcast from NPR's Speaking of Faith on a roadtrip, the speaker was talking on a subject that I am keenly interested in. The spiritual lives of children.

One thing she brought up was the role that ritual plays for kids. How it can help to organize in their minds important events, how it shows them the importance of these celebrations. They build strong memories around these times with their parents and family.

I can say it is very true in my own experience. I remember the Catholic church my mom took me to with great clarity, mostly because I had no idea what the significance of any rituals meant.

And for a second I lamented the lack of ritual that we currently implement. I wondered if it would just leave all this stuff and amorphous blob of God info in her young mind. Don't laugh.

I had the following conversation with her

Who is God?
He is the Father of Jesus the Christ.
Who is Jesus the Christ?
He loves us.
What is a Christ?
It means God loves me.

Her answers blessed me.

At that moment I realized something else entirely. Another conversation happened maybe.

How do I make ritual for my child?
You don't.
Will it be bad that she doesn't have it?
You aren't the one in charge here, so you need to quit worrying about this.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

What my young daughter teaches me about God.

A couple weeks ago a nice guy talked in front of the church. He talked about (let's see if I can reiterate a sermon from 3 weeks ago) how God limits himself for us because he loves us.

The image that he gave that I took away was the pictures that children draw that we put on our fridge. We put them up there not because they are Rembrandt's, but because we love the little people who made them.

I am trying to be brief, but the idea is that there is more to our relationship with God than being perfect in His eyes. Because we never will be. The important thing there is the love.

With my sweet daughter, we go through things. She learns new things at an astonishing rate. Sometimes good, sometimes less than good. Recently she has mostly overcome her fear of getting her face in the pool. For me, seeing her do that was HUGE, because I have never managed to become much of a swimmer and water still inspires a degree of anxiousness for me. For my husband, this is not a problem, he is an easy swimmer. He has conquered the water. We have made a BIG DEAL out of her dunking and her putting her face in the water.

And she has overcome some dawdling things she used to do, she can clean up her room, she works better in the kitchen with me, she can wash the windows (handy for when she has painted them with yogurt)...

But lately we struggle with kindness. Part of the problem is sleep. If she is the least bit tired, it is almost impossible for her to be nice. Visiting grandparents, family members presents a particular problem as there is little to no opportunity for naps. So my family, who seldom gets to see her, often gets the full brunt of her worst side.

It pains me. And her dad.

She makes faces, denies hugs, and has a whole array of ways to show herself to be short, snippy, bratty and generally unpleasant. It makes me want to keep her home.

But surely as she has learned many many other things by sheer perseverance, I am heartened that we will go along and soon she will hear me reiterate this enough that we will have a breakthrough.

And sometimes I feel like it is this way in my spiritual life. A weakness (oh, and there are enough, aren't there?) will show itself eventually, and it will just keep presenting itself. Over, and over, and over...

Until eventually it will slowly, slowly begin to sink in how to supplant a bad thing with a good thing, or at least, a neutral thing. S l o w l y.

And soon, a new habit will emerge.

But like my lovely little daughter, who learns so much faster, it takes time. Luckily, it seems to me that that is one thing that God has.