|Print | Back||August 28, 2013|
Raising the Rising GenerationChildren and the Spirit of God
by Emily S. Jorgensen
Since tomorrow is the first day of school for my children, tonight my husband gave our children father’s blessings, as is a common custom in many Latter-Day Saint families.
Whenever he does this, I am reminded of the first time I received a father’s blessing from my own father. I was 19 years old, and we had just returned from the temple being sealed together as a family. I am the oldest, so I was given a blessing first, and then my dad proceeded to bless each child, on down to my youngest sister who had recently turned four years old.
I will never forget that sweet little four-year-old girl, in her pretty dress she wore to the temple, all fidgets and shy toothy smiles, when she climbed up onto the dining room chair that had been placed in the center of the usually chaotic family room, her short legs swinging in the air above the floor. After my father finished laying hands on her, she was uncharacteristically still. She refused to get off from the chair.
Though she likely didn’t fully grasp the meaning of the words of the blessing, she comprehended the overwhelming feeling of the Spirit present and she didn’t want it to end.
So, too, when my husband laid hands on my soon-to-be-eight-year-old daughter, I felt the telltale emotional power of the Spirit ratify the words coming out of my husband’s mouth. This was important, because this particular daughter’s main concern about her impending baptism is that she is not sure she has ever felt the Spirit, and is worried about it.
I have always felt that child-of-record baptisms get short shrift. Here is the only saving ordinance I, as a parent, can make sure my child gets. I wish these baptisms could be done more individually instead of collectively as a stake one Saturday a month.
But, as I listened to the counsel the Lord was giving to my daughter during her blessing, I realized that I was worried about the completely wrong thing. The best way to make sure her baptism is truly meaningful for her is to give her the power to choose it.
I realized I had never told her that it really is her choice — that we will not force her to be baptized; that although it is a commandment of God, it is hers to obey or not.
By never inviting her to pray about this decision and make it with help from the Spirit, I was robbing her of a precious opportunity to feel the Spirit of God.
I, like most adults, am often guilty of underestimating the potential spiritual power of the children around me.
I have often thought that the scriptures like 3 Nephi 17 and Matt 19: 23-15 that specifically mention Christ teaching and blessing children were primarily there to remind us adults to teach children the gospel, to value them for their innocence and to emulate their perfect faith.
But maybe they are including in holy writ for another reason. Maybe it is to demonstrate that children are quite capable — maybe even more so than some adults — of truly learning the things Jesus came to the earth to teach. Scriptures about Christ interacting with children show it is worthwhile to give them significant spiritual experiences when they are young.
In other words, we don’t have to wait until they are old enough to understand all our big adult words to grasp the meaning of loving one another, obeying God, repenting, forgiving, and feeling the Spirit.
Ten years ago my husband was called to teach Sunday School to the 13-year-olds of the ward. He was pretty shocked to learn that not one of the young people in his class knew what the plan of salvation was. Every week for as long as it took, he would draw the familiar diagram of circles and lines representing the pre-existence, the mortal world, the spirit world, birth, death, etc. until he was satisfied that all his students understood this basic doctrine.
Now, these youth all came from families that were active in the Church. I am sure they taught their children many important things. But, my husband and I wondered many times when they didn’t know the basic tenants of their religion.
I wonder if those parents were like me — thinking it was my job to “make sure” my children get baptized instead of inviting them to seek for answers for themselves at a young age.
I believe it is true that we parents of this rising generation are, in general, doing too much for our children and they have developed, as a whole, some entitlement issues. (Although I personally know a heap of parents who are producing fabulous, self-sufficient kids.)
But, I worry that the greater cost of doing too much for our children is robbing them of the most precious thing they can attain in life — their very own testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Are we providing them with experiences that let them ponder their own relationship to Christ? Are we giving them quiet and space to really pray to God like He is listening? Are we identifying to them the times we feel the Spirit? Instead of lecturing to them, are we bearing testimony of the truths we know?
My husband also gave me a blessing tonight. It was beautiful, and there were tears aplenty. My children asked me why I was crying. I told them it was because the things their father had said in the blessing were the exact things I needed to hear and I knew those words were not from their father, but their Father.
After we dispersed from our family home evening, I took my seven-year-old daughter aside and told her that we would not make her get baptized; that it was her decision. She, of her own volition, promised to pray about it that night when she went to bed.
I was so astonished that she would come up with such a spiritually mature response, and realized I have likely been the one giving my children short shrift, in neglecting to suggest they begin the sort of dialogue with their Father in Heaven that I have with Him.
What grown-up arrogance. It is only in this brief moment of mortality that there is any meaningful age difference between myself and my children. Very soon any disparity in our ages will be gone; what will remain is the richness of our relationship with each other and with God.
And, hopefully, the testimony we both share and simultaneously possess individually.
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