I've long struggled with how to introduce Jesus to my children in ways that would not seem manipulative. As a teenager, I began to feel manipulated by how Jesus was presented to me. I've never been one to feel that going to church was absolutely necessary for salvation or favor in God's eyes. Staying away from church for as long as I have has actually helped me to think more clearly about God and what that concept means to me.
I've wondered, though, how exactly to convey the depth of my faith to a child who has not yet had the depth of experience that I've had.
A few weeks ago, the older kids came across a set of rosary beads. They both thought it was a really cool necklace. I told them they were rosary beads. Naturally, the next question was "What are rosary beads?"
I explained that they were special beads that people use to say prayers and think about Jesus -- very simplistic, I know. So from there, I introduced them to The Lord's Prayer. Danny repeated the lines after me. I stopped every few lines to talk about words such as trespass and temptation.
Give us this day our daily bread, I told them, means that we are asking God to give us what we need.
Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, I explained, means that Jesus forgives us our sins and, in return, expects us to forgive others.
A trespass is another word for sin, I told him.
What's sin? he asked.
It's when you do something that you know is wrong, I said.
And as if on cue, he reaches out and grabs a ball from his sister's hand.
That was the wrong thing to do, I told him. And he gave it back to her.
Next we discussed temptation. And as I'm explaining what it means to be tempted, he begins to sneak his hand toward the ball in Fiona's hands while eying me.
You're tempted to take that ball even though you know it's wrong, aren't you? I asked.
He admitted that he was.
So, without really trying and without feeling like I manipulated my children, I conveyed the three of the most important things that I pray to God for: give me what I need spiritually and physically, forgive me and help me behave.
We've also been reading a daily devotional book during what Danny has come to call "blanket time." Basically, it's our morning devotional time. We read our devotion, talk about it and do a prayer. Danny is pretty good about repeating the prayers after me, but one morning he said, "Wait, I want to do the prayer." And he started, "Dear God, I want to talk to you."
And I was stunned and humbled.
I've been telling him that prayer is just a conversation with God and that he can talk to Him whenever he feels scared or unsure of what to do next. I didn't think it actually would sink in. I mean, why would I think that it would sink in? This is the kid who still STILL leaves the door open when he goes inside or outside.
Next up? The rules. I found a children's book about the Ten Commandments at my favorite thrift shop. I began reading it to Danny and Fiona. I figured that I should start with love, forgiveness and conversation with God before moving on to the rules.