Raising a Spiritual Child

 Meet Cheryl S., a friend and sometime-blogger over at Sunveiling. (She also has a Facebook page here.) I’m stealing the following post from her, a lovely portrayal of talking to one’s child about self, heaven, and personal truth.

I send my boys to a private school down the road.  It’s a Christian school.  In all honesty, my decision was mostly based upon the fact that the kindergarten is all day, which I thought would benefit my son.  Surely, the moral foundation couldn’t hurt–I thought.

At my parent-teacher conference last fall, Mrs. Zimmermann* gave my son, Drew, rave reviews.  She told me that he was excelling academically, that he had a passion for learning and was a positive influence on his peers.

Then she continued…

“I’m just so proud of Drew.  He is one of 3 other kids in his class that have accepted Christ as their savior.”

I think my face must have contorted a bit when I thought,  “SAY WHAAA?!?!”

Here’s why:  First of all, the official acceptance of a savior was news to me.  And I’ll be honest, it took me a lil’ off guard.

My mind raced. At 6, was it really possible that any child could truly understand the depth of what it means to accept a savior?  Maybe. Could this just be Drew following direction and doing what he believes it takes to earn Mrs. Zimmermann’s approval?  Perhaps.

I sat speechless, unsure how to respond. The best I could muster was a nod and a smile

***

For the rest of the afternoon, I felt conflicted.

I wrestled with the thought that maybe I didn’t give Drew enough credit.  Perhaps he did understand the gravity of his commitment to Jesus.  He surely is spiritually sensitive and connected–always has been.  What if, even at his young age, that was what he had chosen to subscribe to?

If it was, I would fully support him.

But something felt off to me.  I was skeptical about Drew’s motivation.  When he was younger, he had an interest in all the holy books and all religions, which is rather uncommon for a 3 year old, no doubt.  He had an insatiable curiosity about how our souls connect with our bodies, what they are made of and how they find their way back to ‘God’.  I remember having long and profoundly mature conversations with him–back when he was so full of wonder and fascination with all the possibilities of who we are and could be.

I felt sad and concerned because this was not the case anymore.  Now, Drew memorized and recited–verbatim–what he learned at school.  His deeply spiritual questions were now canned responses, the obvious result of the praise he received for his obedient absorption of the doctrine.

It became apparent to me that, at the ripe old age of 6, I was witnessing an innocent and inquisitive open mind slowly shutting its doors.  I knew I needed to wedge my foot in there.

***

That night at bedtime, I snuggled up next to Drew on his pillow and asked him to tell me what guided him to accept Jesus as his savior.

He sat up and catapulted into explanation. “Jesus is the only way to eternal life, Mom.  If you don’t ask him to be in your heart, you will be in a fire in hell after you die!”  His eyes bulged.

“Oh my goodness,” I said. “Go on.”

“The devil makes you sin.  I was born a sinner.  I need help,” he said in quiet concern. “It’s easy to sin.  It’s hard to be good. It’s so hard to get to heaven, Mom. I want to go to heaven.”

When it came to accepting Jesus as his savior, it surely appeared to be the only logical option for him.  This decision was born from a place of fear!  I have no doubt that this would not be the terms that Christ would have preferred.  It definitely didn’t come upon the terms that I preferred.

Now, I’ve never once told Drew what to believe.  If I’ve ever forced any agenda onto my kids, it’s to question things for themselves, explore what their hearts tell them, and listen to their intuition. I’ve let Drew do this his whole life and you’d be amazed at the connections he began making on his own, very early on. Even when he asks the hard questions, I try to make sure to never give him the answers of anyone else.  I lead him down the road to uncover them for himself.

So I asked him, “What is heaven, Drew?”

He had his answer immediately.  “Heaven is a beautiful place in the clouds where your family waits for you.” Then he paused.  “What if I can’t see you and Daddy and Nana and Papa there because I was made wrong?”

My heart physically hurt.  If there was ever a time Drew needed to hear my opinion, I knew it was now.

No.  ‘GOD’ MADE NONE OF US WRONG, buddy. We don’t struggle because we are weak or broken.  We struggle to learn.  That’s why we are here–to feel, to experience, to grow.

“The truth is that the beauty of Christ…’God’… ‘heaven’… are here.  Right now.  All around us.”

I smiled and squeezed his hands.  He patiently waited for me to continue.

“We look to religion because this is where we’ve been told to go. Religion is the only place most of us know to go when we feel afraid, or lost, or weak, or small. But things that are popular, come easy or feel safe, aren’t necessarily solid or something we can count on, sweetie.”

I kissed his head.

“What we can count on is the adventure though.” I smiled.  “Setting out to find ‘God’ in our own, personal ways.  Not relying on someone else to provide the answers. Please never allow yourself to be defined or limited by others.  The answers vary.  The place you will find them is ALL your own.  This place is called ‘your truth’. That’s where you will find your greatness, where you begin to find ‘God’.”

He looked up at me, confused.

“Is ‘my truth’ in my brain?  How do I know the answers?”

I shook my head and placed his hands over his heart.

“It’s here, bud. Your truth is in your heart.”

I knew he was grasping my message because on his face was a full, all-knowing smile.  He looked empowered.

“Never stop being YOU. Never give up exploring, creating, learning, and asking, and allowing life to be an exciting adventure!  Your innocence, curiosity, and imagination are the keys to heaven.”  

Drew stated, “I don’t need a key. I have a CODE.”

“Oh really?”  I laughed, wondering where the heck this was going.

“Yes, the code is L – O – V – E,” he stated proudly, then giggled.  “That’s the code to God’s home.”

Out of the mouths of babes.  Wouldn’t his Jesus be happy with that.

*Name changed

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4 thoughts on “Raising a Spiritual Child

  1. Wow… thank-you so much for sharing Cheryl’s words with her son, this is something as parents that I feel we all have to face at some point, especially when teaching love and diversity within our own families. (Let alone when our children walk out into the world and truly see the multitude of different beliefs and faiths which abound!) Kudos to you, Cheryl, for recognizing your sons struggle without him even having to put it into words, you’re obviously very attuned to his emotional well-being!

  2. Beautiful. I sent my kids to a similar school for a similar reason. Almost. Their school is down the street from our house. Its made life easier. I had my doubts because in every organization there are extremists and young minds are so easily influenced. Over the years, there have been moments when I questioned myself and the school. I needn’t have worried because at home they have other viewpoints and opinions. As they’ve grown through school (K – high school) I see them deciding for themselves. They don’t get wrapped up in the politics of the religion and any one teacher’s personal viewpoint, they’ve learned to make their own. Phew!

    • Yes–kids will be exposed to so many ideas and opinions in their young lives, and the most important and influential are the ones at home. NICE JOB on raising kids who think for themselves.

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