Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Affirming God for Children

Parents of young children hope for positive responses in their efforts to instill appropriate behavior and value systems. They train their offspring to be obedient, cooperative, cheerful, and encourage a host of other positive self-disciplines. Parents divert the young people from selfishness, meanness, and lying, making sure they understand the downside of such negative behaviors for themselves and the people around them. 

At some point in a young child’s training, perhaps in partnership with the church’s religious education program, parents introduce the concept of God’s reality. The time to teach awareness of a divine Being is a matter of the child’s readiness. We need inspired parental judgment fueled by divine wisdom. Scripture exhortations to “teach your children” in several Old Testament Scripture passages do not come with suggestions concerning the ages of the children. We may speculate on specific details of the manner in which their teaching unfolded. Parents teach their children simple prayers to repeat before mealtime or bedtime. As a followup to thanking God we wonder how we may explain to a child that the Heavenly Father is ultimately responsible for gifts of food for which we thank Him? God is invisible. How, then, does an invisible God supply our food? 

The child has observed that Mom and Dad purchase and prepare food for their table. How is God responsible? One effective strategy would be to plant seeds, observe them sprouting, watch leaves developing, blossoms appearing, and plants later producing their fruit. Systematic observation could be encouraged at an early age. One late autumn day our grandchildren shelled kernels from a corn cob and covered some of the seeds in the mulch under our front yard walnut tree. After many months buried in frozen ground covered by layers of winter snow, some of the seeds sprouted and emerged the following spring. Grandpa transplanted several plants to flower pots. One grew to nearly 18 inches. The hybrid seeds did not bear fruit, but we did observe the miracle of sprouting and growth. This “planting” incident was unintentional. Many truths about God’s design and process features in the world of nature are revealed both incidentally and as a result of deliberate inquiry.

Spring provides many other opportunities to observe renewal of life from sprouting seeds, annual leaf-out of deciduous plants, and regrowth of perennial plants. Parents concerned about inspiring God-awareness in their children have ample opportunities during the development of the spring season to point out gradually changing colors of the forest, development of leaf buds, formation of near identical shapes of all leaves on a particular tree, and the diverse shapes of leaves on different species of neighborhood trees. Our family’s treasured front yard black walnut tree, in addition to its early production of buds, produces immature pea-sized walnuts early in its annual growth cycle. Grandpa lifted his grandkids up to the low hanging branches to inspect them. A few months later we harvested mature walnuts from the ground and enjoyed cracking and consuming left-over walnuts from the previous year.

We previously posted “Springtime Renewal” a few years ago:

The above linked post deals with a few of the plant’s physiological processes related to the onset of spring. Physiological processes are not apparent but visual changes are observable and potentially interesting to young children. Wise parents should not overload the young child with too much information about plant growth. They could offer the suggestion that God initiated the idea to create plants, to make them grow and develop for our enjoyment, and to utilize them as food for humans. Introductory discussions about God, even though He is not visible to us, may inspire young children to think more deeply about the reality of the Heavenly Father to whom we pray at mealtime and bedtime. Parents may be surprised by their insightful questioning.