I'm not asking the question you think I am.
I am asking a question that makes my heart ache.
What happens to children who are raised with no concept of the Sacred? My question might better be put: what if there is no Godde in the lives of children? How much do they miss out on? How do they learn to think beyond themselves and the immediate present? What ideas or experiences counteract the messages of the dominant culture in the mind and heart of a child? I wonder.
I wonder about these things all the time because my childhood was so filled with the wonder of creation, with sacred encounters that I had words and stories for because I was nurtured spiritually. I learned songs that formed my theological understandings. I heard music that soared, inviting me into wordless wonder. I was told stories that challenged me to think about the meaning of my actions, my relationships and my life.
I wonder about these things especially now in the Advent and Christmas season. I ache for children who spend this month focused on 'stuff' and never experience the quiet joy of hope, the silence of peace, the mystery of longing, who are never encouraged to encounter Godde in the sacredness of human relationships.
And then there is the problem of children encountering Godde as a concept. It is one thing if children, left to their own devices, touch the holy in play, in creation, in relationship and quite another when, untutored, they come to believe (by default or by interpreting the messages of the culture) that Godde is either an invisible Santa Claus or invisible tyrant.
How can children learn about Godde when they are not given any language or stories, any encouragement, to think about the Sacred? They learn from the adults around them what matters. They learn from the adults around them how to be in relationship with spouses. They learn how to parent from they way they are parented. And they learn what it means (and how) to be in relationship with Godde from the adults around them.
Of course, this can be both good and bad but I like C.S. Lewis's assertion in his collection of lectures, The Abolition of Man, where he posits that teaching children the concepts and values of good and evil is important not so much because they will mirror the parents' (or church's) understanding of what comprises good and evil but because they will know that good and evil, itself, exists. (for those of you uncomfortable with the idea of evil- I promise to go there another day.)
Further, I would assert that teaching and modeling for children relationship with Godde grounds them in knowing that Godde even exists. Then, as they mature, they will develop relationship the Sacred on their own. But if they never have the idea that Godde is encountered in relationship they might never enter consciously into that relationship.
These days our kids spend countless hours before the screen, entranced by mindless television or video games. When they are outside, it is often to participate in organized sports. The 'go outside and play' directive has become uncommon. So children have fewer and fewer opportunities to meet Godde in nature, in creation, in the changing of the seasons, in the exploration of the world around them. And I have witnessed a certain callousness that surprises me when they do encounter the natural world. Nature is not met so much with wonder as it is as challenge, something that needs to be either controlled or endured. It seems to have less reality than the current video craze.
My heart aches. It aches for all the children who are missing out on something profound and spectacular. For all the kids who are, in the words of Marian Zimmer Bradley, 'head blind' - or perhaps 'spirit blind' or 'soul blind'. There is a reality, a majesty and a mystery to be encountered that cannot be perceived when the spirit of the child is not nurtured. And if not nurtured, then Godde, creation, the universe are alien. The self can be tempted to become the center of its known universe.
My heart aches. For them. For us. For our world. If you are a person of spirit, I urge you to share your story with a child. I urge you to help a child encounter divine mystery in a snowflake, a cloud, a breath of wind, a symphony, a tear drop, a loving act or a stand for justice. Tell your story not because you want a child to become like you or believe like you, but because you want to introduce a child to her or his own spirit. And because you have the honor of introducing that child to Godde.