Three Dimensional Faith: Inspiring Our Children
We are all children of God, but my favorite people are actual children. They are so very precious that we must nurture them with extra special care. If we, the grown up children of God, get nurturing our little ones wrong it doesn't really matter what we get right. We must show our faith to be the three dimensional truth that we know it to be. How? Read on for a few ideas.
Many adult Christians have spent some time experiencing what St. John of the Cross called the dark night of the soul. This Spanish priest and poet wrote his most famous work in the late 1500s. The phrase dark night of the soul refers to a time in our spiritual journey in which we don't feel connected to God. A time of trial, doubt, and loneliness. I have been there.
For reasons known only to God, children do not seem to experience doubt within their faith. They may doubt that you made their peanut butter and jelly sandwich correctly, or that today's scrambled egg was made the same way that yesterday's was, but they do not doubt God's real presence in the universe. They do not doubt that Jesus is the miracle working Son of God that they have learned about. They do not doubt that He hears their prayers both silent and spoken, They trust that we will teach and tell them the truth.
What can we do to keep their faith strong throughout childhood and into adolescence? Our children look to us for assurance. They need us to be a steady and consistent source of faith, love, attention, and wisdom. Like a lighthouse shining a beam of light on the rocks that would crash them on the shore, our children need us to show them the pitfalls of life and how a strong faith can help get over them. This means that we ourselves should be able to understand and experience that kind of faith.
Faith like this is three dimensional. It has height, width, and depth. It is solid and weighty. It is something we can hold, something we can see, something we can know well. It can be lived, demonstrated, shared, celebrated. But more than that, three dimensional faith is visible to the children in our lives and they will follow it like sailors follow a lighthouse into the harbor. Three dimensional faith is something that a child can reach for and grasp. If you offer three dimensional faith to a child, they will respond with trust.
What are the signs and expressions of three dimensional faith that children can truly relate to? What practical steps can we take that will make it easier for the young people around us to seize? The days are coming soon when each child we know will need to make a choice to embrace a three dimensional faith of their own. They need those of us who have traveled the road before them to light the way. Mature, skilled, seasoned, tried, and tested. We are the ones that are called to this work. Here are three dimensions that you can use to show the children how a strong, orthodox faith is lived in our time.
Height. The height of our faith is the natural reaching up to God that occurs within the human soul that has sensed the prevenient grace of God. Prevenient grace is the way God calls to each of us as He asks us to come and rest in His love. When we respond to His invitation we are reaching up. We are extending our hearts and our spirits upwards toward God who is smiling at us and longing to hold us close. Let the children in your life see you reaching up to God. Let them see you reading the Word of God, let them see you learning to worship more freely and fervently. Reach up! Speak of God, sing to God, worship God! This is height. Dimension one.
Width. The width of faith is lived in community. It is reaching out to love our family, our neighbors, strangers, the poor, the unwell, the suffering, the lost. The width of faith is demonstrated by the friendship and grace we extend to those who live in the world around us. Anytime we give, love, lend, smile, listen, encourage, cheer, we are living the width of our faith. Children can easily participate in this part of faith. Take cookies to your elderly neighbor. Let a child carry the plate. Let your child participate in any act of kindness. Have them draw pictures for their grandmother. Let them collect items for the homeless in your community. Check with the food bank in your community and bring them items on their list. Take your child with you when you deliver those items. Show the children what the people of your community are doing to love those who need food and care that the rest of us take for granted. Give generously, love lavishly, praise freely. Reach out! Speak love, sing joy, offer hope! This is width. Dimension two.
Depth. The depth of faith is learning with your mind and your spirit. More than studying the Bible, it is thinking about the pure, noble, and lovely things of life and speaking about them. It is feeling the holy love of God and expressing it. It is knowing God better today than you did yesterday and doing that on purpose. With intention. Turn off the screens or devices and pick up the scripture. Think about it. Pray about it. Consider it. Pray the word of God by reading the scripture and working the sacred words into your prayers. Know what God really expects of you by knowing what His Word says. Dig deep into the Bible. Know what God promises you by knowing what His Word says. His promises for you are filled with wonder, strength, power, and love. He promises a future filled with all that you need to live in His way. Dig down! Speak the Word of God! Sing with energy! Offer wisdom! This is depth. Dimension Three.
Three dimensional faith reminds me of the cross. The vertical beam reminds us to reach up to God. The horizontal beam reminds us to reach out to others. The depth of the beam allows us to stand tall and steady with roots dug deep in fertile soil. Three dimensional faith is the faith that we must pass to our children if our faith is to live on. Grow this, share this, teach this, live this. When you do, you greatly lower the odds of experiencing your own dark night of the soul.