Having grown up in a very rigid religion, and knowing how Gregg felt, I wanted to be sensitive and gentle in teaching my children about God. Relationship with God is so personal that it was not easy for me to know how to introduce David and Katie to this Person, this Being, and the relationship they have with Him/Her. We attended church, took them to Sunday School, and I participated in church activities with them. I bought Bibles with stories written for children, books on prayer for children, and I tried to keep my words brief and simple. But it always felt a little odd to speak to them about something that is mystical; it is hard to communicate such things with words. I did the best I could to convey what I felt or understood.
I found that nature was a great teacher, and a living illustration of God in action. For example, when she was nearly four and a half years old, I tried using the analogy of the wind to illustrate something about God with Katie:
I also discovered a wonderful book by Sister Wendy Beckett called "A Child's Book of Prayer in Art," which was helpful. There are masterpieces of art with some text explaining them, and a simple prayer for each work. It is a beautiful way to integrate the Biblical ideas and images, and it is appropriate for the attention span of a child. As a woman with a degree in fine art, I loved it, too.
As far as I can recall, Katie's favorite was the painting by Domenico Ghirlandaio called Portrait of an Old Man & a Young Boy:
It's interesting to me, because Katie was very visual, highly sensitive to appearances and beauty. She loved to stare at people and study them. The heading of this particular chapter in Sister Wendy's book is "Love," and the prayer is,
"Teach me to accept other people with love as you do.
Help me to take other people as they are and
never be cruel or unkind, whatever they look like."
We also had a book of children's Bible stories, and the one she wanted me to read over and over again was the story about Esther. I don't know if it was the 12 months of beauty treatments and the presentation to the king which appealed to Katie, or the fact that Esther was chosen out of obscurity and became queen, or whether it was the fact that Esther saved her people, which appealed to Katie. I wish I knew; I only know that she liked to hear that story again and again.
Today's devotional from Fr. Rohr contains words about St. Francis of Assisi:
"Francis is always telling [creatures] that by their very existence they are inherently giving glory to God. All things should be who they truly are, and that is enough...Each creature has a unique thing to do in the circle of life, and in that simple performance it is giving glory to a unique aspect of God and making us happy besides..." - From In the Footsteps of Francis: Awakening to Creation
That is Good News indeed: unconditional love.
I'm grateful that I had the opportunity to share the Bible, my faith and the love of God with our children. I pray that it helped - and still helps them - in every path they travel.
When Katie was dying, she asked me about life after death, and I did my best to explain what I had read, heard, and felt to be true. Now, I look forward to seeing Katie again, and learning what she knows of all of these things.