by Rev. Dr. Daniel C. Wilburn
Parents spend much of their time raising children from the Expert perspective. While this is reasonable, it doesn’t convey Wisdom. I suggest we think of ourselves more as Poets, Priests/Priestesses and Prophets/Prophetesses.
Poet Emily Dickinson said, “Tell the truth, but tell it slant.” The parent doesn’t have to know poetry to act as poet. Poets interpret culture and the world around them for others. A parent must make a turn toward god – gain the eyesight to view all as god’s. The sounds in the woods are god’s; the sky and stars, lightning and thunder are god’s artwork. The Expert explains such natural theology as Science. But the Poet interprets them as belonging to god.
The Priest ushers the child into the Divine Presence. Priestess intermediates the reality of god in our world. So to teach children how to pray is primary. By prayer I certainly do not mean just asking god for stuff and goodness. By prayer I mean listening for god’s voice. As Eugene Peterson puts it, “prayer must be a response to something god has said.” Centering Prayer is a practice of taking every thought captive to god… of echoing Jesus’ prayer, “not my will but your will Father.” Frank X. Jelenek wrote “Journey to the Heart: Centering Prayer for Children.” His children’s book describes and walks a child through this deeper relationship with god. The parent as priest takes the child through the gospel, makes it real, reads the scriptures to their child. An easy way to do this is follow the liturgical calendar year, celebrating the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost and so on. Lakeland provides family guides for these seasons, guides to be used around the kitchen table with candles and stories and prayers.
Parent as Prophet means we declare the truth of god to our children. We sift through the advertisement during a sports game on television. Wisdom is not just guarding children from the world, but teaching them how to be in the world without being seduced by the world – not escapism, determinism and protectionism.
More than just teaching children The Golden Rule, we help them (and ourselves) understand the context around Jesus’ words in Luke 6:27-36… that we do not live in a fair and just world but a merciful grace-filled world, a mercy from the Father. We should not seek justice before we seek mercy so says Jesus.
Parenting is more art than information-download. In short, parents MUST sit at the feet of Jesus first. Every parent is pouring something into the empty cup of a child. May it be the heart of god, the life of Jesus, the real presence of the Spirit. May our children walk their days under the sun of god, the light of uniqueness and never lose their wonderment at the beauty of god. And may we parents prepare them for Wisdom and not just Expert.