As a mother, I have experienced firsthand how much strain this current situation is putting on children. A couple of days ago, during prayer, my daughter asked: “Mommy is there Coronavirus on Mars?” I told her that I do not think there is. Then I asked her why she wanted to know. And her response was deeply moving: “Mommy, can we go and live on Mars?” My heart broke. I wondered what thoughts had gone through her mind before reaching this conclusion. But it was also a gentle reminder: this is not easy for her, or any children. Therefore we need to move at the pace of children.
Jacob acknowledged that children walk at a different pace to adults. So too must we, as we walk with them through the COVID-19 pandemic
In Genesis 33:13-14 we read, “My lord [Esau] knows that the children are frail, and that the nursing flocks and herds are a care to me. If they are driven hard for one day, all the flocks will die. Let my lord pass on ahead of his servant, and I will lead on slowly, at the pace of the livestock that are ahead of me and at the pace of the children, until I come to my lord in Seir”. Jacob acknowledged that children walk at a different pace to adults. So too must we, as we walk with them through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Children are Confused, Uncertain and Anxious
Thanks to COVID-19, and the movement restrictions that have come with it, we are living in unprecedented times. While adults have no idea how to respond to the new status quo, children are bewildered. The little ones have so many questions as they try to wrap their heads around why they cannot:
- Go to school
- Visit or be visited by their friends and family
- Go out to places and spaces they enjoy (including church)
As parents, or guardians, we cannot merely think how to keep our own heads – or hearts – above the rising waters. We cannot only worry about treading for ourselves. For we also are carrying children on our shoulders, in an effort to keep them from being overwhelmed and drowning. Three thoughts and actions have been my go-to during the last couple of weeks.
1. The Why: “Children are a Gift from God”
I have been reminding myself why I have these children under my care in the first place. Reason being, my responsibility and God’s expectations are not on hold. In Psalm 127:3 we are told; “Behold children are a gift from God, the fruit of the womb a reward”. They are gifts to be taken care of, faithfully stewarded. And one of the ways we care for them is by passing the faith on to them. A couple of years ago, when my godson was being baptised, the priest said something that has stuck with me since: “You belong to us. And we belong to God. Therefore, you belong to God.”
Children are gifts to be taken care of, faithfully stewarded. And one of the ways we care for them is by passing the faith on to them
Passing on Our Faith
We who have children under our care need to be aware of the end goal: passing on our faith to the next generation. I am reminded of Daniel in the Old Testament. A young Hebrew boy plucked from his home and carried away into captivity. He was away from everything he knew. He was placed right in the middle of foreign idolatry. Yet he made a decision, resolving in his heart that he would not defile himself with the king’s meat (Daniel 1:8). That was not an easy decision to make. Yet throughout his life in exile we see Daniel repeatedly choosing God above the ways of the Babylonian kings, culture and religion.
Throughout his life in exile we see Daniel repeatedly choosing God above the ways of the Babylonian kings, culture and religion
I want my children to be like Daniel when they leave home. Alone in the world, I want them to still choose to honour God. That will be the measure of my success in passing on the faith, which God has tasked me to do. How will we accomplish this? How do we ensure that our God becomes their God? When we intentionally choose to put the work in, day after day. But what do we use? What tools do we have at our disposal in this God-given task?
2. The What: “Teach them Diligently”
In Deuteronomy 6:7 we are given a step by step guide on how to teach God’s Word to our children. In Deuteronomy 6:6 we are told that these commands, God’s words, need to be on our own hearts, the hearts of the adults, first. Then, “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”
Most, if not all children, are home at this time. Many parents are also spending more time at home. Therefore this is a perfect opportunity to draw our children into God and His Word. And we do not need to be theologians or preachers to do so. As parents, guardians and caregivers we are called to integrate the teaching of God’s Word into our daily routine. When we wake up, when we are eating, sitting down, walking, or lying down we should sight and create opportunities. Each day presents countless occasions to draw our children in by teaching them God’s Word.
This is a perfect opportunity to draw our children into God and His Word. And we do not need to be theologians or preachers to do so
Seizing the Opportunities
I am all for routines as a mother because I have seen that it makes life more productive. But COVID-19 and the #stayhome initiative has thrown these routines out of the window. We are surviving on the bare minimum: eat, wash and pray. But something beautiful has come from this lack of routine: I am consciously practicing Deuteronomy 6:7. As we live through very ordinary moments I now have countless opportunities to teach my children. We are currently memorising the Heidelberg Confession (see also the New City Catechism). We discuss what it means for our faith as well as its application for our present circumstances. Next we will learn a hymn in our mother tongue. I am excited!
3. The How: “Let the Children Come to Me”
One day our Saviour, Jesus Christ, was among the crowds. We are told that children flocked to Him. But the disciples moved to exclude them. Their Master was an important person. Children were not. But Jesus immediately corrected them saying, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them. For to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14).
As you draw them in, unpack God’s Word to address their concerns, anxieties and doubts
Children need continuous assurance. Physical touch is one way to do so. Bring them in physically, hold them, kiss them and hug them. Speak words of affirmation to them. Listen to their fears, worries, and questions. And as you draw them in, unpack God’s Word to address their concerns, anxieties and doubts. Is this going to be an easy time? No. Is there a quick fix? No, again. However, I am most comforted in the Words of our Saviour: “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
Concluding Appeal to Parents
Dear parents and guardians, we find ourselves in a time never imagined. The multidimensional effects of COVID-19 are the stuff of movies. Yet in the midst of it all, our dear Lord would have us continue to care for the children He has so graciously given to us. It is imperative that we remember that they are gifts, and that God has given us guidance on how to raise them.
Christ presents us with an example on how to draw them in. Brothers and sisters, at such times we would do well to follow the example of Jacob: move at the pace of the children. After all, our Saviour said that only those who change and become like the little ones will inherit the Kingdom of God.
In the midst of it all, our dear Lord would have us continue to care for the children He has so graciously given to us