“How do we as parents increase the spiritual capacity of our little ones?” I love that Sister Durham posed this question. As a mother with children who are still so young, but also so capable of entering that space where they see, hear, feel and know through the spirit, I’ve thought a lot about how I can nourish their curiosity and help them develop a love for the spiritual exploration.
I was glad then that the suggestions that Sister Durham offered were not necessarily prescriptive rules for making sure that children feel the spirit in specific and prescribed ways. She says that we can bring attention to when our children might be hearing or feeling the spirit. In my own experience I try to be careful to remove any guilt or pressure that might be tied to situations like this. Maybe I feel the spirit in a situation, but my 5-year old doesn’t and that is okay, but I appreciate the reminder to be a facilitator and teacher of the spirit in quiet and private ways.
Second, she talks about making our homes a place where the spirit can be felt. She says, “Many teachers of foreign languages believe that children learn a language best in ‘immersion programs, in which they are surrounded by other speakers of the language and called upon to speak it themselves. They learn not just to say words, but to speak fluently and even to think in the new language. The best ‘immersion’ setting for a spiritual education is in the home, where spiritual principles can form the basis for daily living.”
I hadn’t thought of the of the spirit as a language in that way, and I like the idea of my children being immersed in a space where the open-ended language of the spirit is fluent. I guess that implies that I, as the older person would be fluent and well-versed in the language of the spirit. I also like the idea that in our home, the adults are not simply passing down knowledge and belief because we already know enough, but that we should be willing to listen and learn from the language of the spirit that my children speak through their curiosity, experimentation and endless play. I wish that she had extended this invitation beyond the walls of the home, I find that I take my children to nature when I want to be deliberate about helping them be familiar with sacredness, awe and joy. She ends the second thought with this line, “Immersing our families in the Spirit will keep our children’s hearts open to His influence.” I am grateful that she didn’t say that teaching our children these things will ensure that they think, believe and act like we expect, or like we do, but this line implies a more generous vision for our children. For me, it implies the idea that we can trust our children and let them explore with trust that their hearts will be open to the best things.
The last suggestion she gives is that “We can help our children understand how the spirit speaks to them.” I like this suggestion because again, I think it can encourage creativity and accountability in our young people. Children are so good at parsing out and acting on what they believe is good and right. Not too long ago on the car ride home from a park my son told me that he was by some trees and everything felt so quiet that he sat down and prayed. It was a stunning moment to me to realize just how responsible this tiny boy was willing to be in working with the spirit. Durham ends with a line from a mother, “I’m teaching my children to focus on what they feel [and act on it].”
I didn’t particularly connect to the anecdote because I feel tired of believing that my children are entering a world that will try to drown them. I don’t believe that is the case and I don’t want to perpetuate “us and them” narratives, but I did love the actual meat of this talk. As always, when I hear a woman speak, I am looking and hoping for quotes from other women to support her thoughts and ideas, and although there were several female authors in the footnotes, I did feel a little disappointed that the only quotes that got names were men.
Overall though, I thought the message was kind and available for interpretation in many different scenarios, ages and stages of the gospel.