When you are married in a Christian or Catholic Church, you are often asked the question “do you promise to raise your children in the Christian faith and guide them?” But when couples have babies, things start to get busier and busier. As children they grow, there are more and more demands on parents. In the busyness of life, we forget the original words and our promise. But are they first about words of faith? Saint Francis said, “preach the Gospel and where necessary use words”. This suggests that we are called to primarily embody the Gospel, rather than starting with religious words. Can we teach the Gospel without even speaking. Could the words that we use, are rather the fruits of our lived experience. But we often place things the other way around. Words first. Karl Rahner said “the Christian of the future will be a mystic, otherwise there will be no Christian”. The Christian of the future must move more deeply than just the words we use.
Two days ago, my 7-year-old son asked “Dad, can we play a game”? I responded, “No, I am tired, and have just returned from work”. But, on reflection, I had missed a golden opportunity for engagement with my son. I did not engage with him. Later, I asked my daughter, “do you want me to pray with you at night time, before falling asleep?” Her response was “I do not care. Either way is fine”. There was a test in her answer. Did I care? Do I care more than my own needs?
We must engage our children even when there are obstacles. There is a certain wrestling which takes places. This wrestling and relationship changes, as they grow and also as we grow. Normally, as they grow as teenagers, they want to seek independence. This is the perfect time to start asking them questions. To mix up the roles. Instead of the parent being the bearer of all knowledge. It is time for the parent to engage the child, through questioning. Sometimes stepping back outside of the limelight might is the way to engage our children. To get them to begin to develop ownership of who they are and who they are becoming. Don’t be afraid to ask difficult questions about sex or sexuality. But start simple and as time moves on, through the months, build up into more complex or difficult questions. Make a ritual out of prayer time together or time at the end of the day where a D&M or deep and meaning filled conversation can occur. Don’t let the obstacles have the final say? But rather, see them as opportunities for growth. There are struggles and difficulties which present. These are doorways to real growth.
There is a sacred dance which exists between mum, dad and child. But do we realise to make it sacred we must see God in the dance as well. But, God does not always crash the door down. God waits patiently outside for the invitation to enter. We must invite God in. Do we mirror God? Reflecting the hidden and creative nature of who God is. How we engage our child must at times reflect God’s hidden nature. But at other times be more fully present.
As a parent, when I am tired and not wanting to play, I must internally turn to God. Allowing God to play God’s part in how we engage with our children. Otherwise we will miss a rich opportunity. “God give me the energy and strength to engage with my children when I am tired and not concerned”. Maybe God’s answer is that I do not work as hard at work, so that I can be more present to myself, to my God, with my partner, and to my children. Praying to God must not be an added extra. But at the heart of family life and its life blood where a deep well string is found. Hidden. Praying regularly is more important than going to church. Church is important, but praying, is more important. Praying does not have to be fixed prayers with a rigid structure. But rather developing a taste for God and seeing God in everything we do. Not just our words. ” At times our children will walk away from us. We must allow them to do this. Especially as they become young adults. We must give them permission to fail without us. Because ultimately life is the greatest teacher and greatest guide. One day we will not be there to advise them. Children must prepare for this. To prepare to engage their lives more fully. Our ambitions to control as parents, cannot fill the void. But rather, like in the story of the Prodigal Son, we must make ourselves available for their return. Not just in a religious sense. But an availability which engages all of life. The ups. The downs. The playing. The work. Sex and sexuality. This moves well beyond us. That is why we need to engage God in this dance. The Spirit of God is both the dance, dancer and the dancing which helps to transform us and grow. Like the Trinity. May we teach our children how to engage a God hidden in the indwelling dance of how they dance throughout their entire lives.
Please pray this prayer regularly with your partner
“God of the dance of who we are becoming…”
God of the dance. May we engage you in our lives as parents. When we are tired, may we draw on your strength. Teach us when to lead and when to follow. Let us model You so that we may guide our children. Give us a desire to taste your presence through the fabric our lives. As our children become more independent, let us let them lead the dance to. They might trip up or if they walk away from us and from this dance, may we give them permission to explore without us. May we trust You mysterious One, as the dance, as the dancer within the dancing. May we see you hidden both in the good and in the bad. God, show us how to sit together at the end of the day. To pray. To ask deep rich questions. Play with us Lord. Turn us upside down and around, so that we too might grow, through the sacred dance of who we are becoming Amen.