Adults,whether they themselves have been awakened spiritually or not, often find it difficult to accept that a child can hear from God. The spiritual testimony, experience or opinion of a child may be deemed sweet, yet doubtful or dismissed without consideration. I think that this is a result in large of a general attitude that sees children as lacking value, being disposable, incapable of profound thought and basically a burden. Throughout history children could be sold or seized to pay a debt. They were found in workhouses, orphanages, city dumps, abused, neglected or ignored.
Thankfully, times have changed. Unfortunately, times aren’t so different for children. If we aren’t careful old attitudes may attempt to surface as we deal with the children in our lives. As parents we may struggle with impatience as we urge them towards maturity and adulthood. We may be tempted to make them more adult-like by the way we dress them, the activities we allow them to pursue, the expectations we have of them. Some children today have busier schedules than their harried parents. Some parents today live vicariously through their children as they involve them in endless activities.
Childhood should be celebrated and enjoyed. Children should be cherished and treasured. Children should be allowed to have independent thoughts and opinions. Children should be nurtured and given opportunities to grow. Children should be consistently and fairly disciplined. Children should believe that they have a voice and that someone is listening. Children should be treated with respect and expected to treat others likewise.
Our foster care system is a sad example of the plight of children in modern day. Children are too often trapped in an emotional limbo for years as they wait for courts and social workers and birth families to develop a plan for their future. It is a powerless place to be. It leads to anger issues, emotional wounds, trust issues, lack of ability to properly bond and damaged self-images. I don’t want to focus on the dysfunction of our foster care system. I will say plainly that it is broken and I doubt that anyone would argue that fact. What I do want to focus on is this, it doesn’t have to be that way. A child who is displaced from their birth family, whatever the reason may be, can still feel valued and loved and empowered.
Lots of people raise children that they did not birth. One of my favorite Biblical accounts of such a relationship is that of Eli and Samuel. During my years of infertility, Samuel’s mother, Hannah, became one of my favorite women in Scripture. I related to her. As she struggled with shame from not being able to produce a child, I related. As she prayed and asked God to intervene, I related. When God gave her a son after longing for one for years, I related. When she gave that son back to God, I related.
One of my sons became a real life ‘Samuel’ when a judge unexpectedly ordered he must be returned to his birth mother. Our time of separation could be measured in days and ended in our reunification, I am glad to report. But, I understood then and many other times how it felt to lose a child I loved. I believe that is what caused me to have such compassion towards the birth families of the dozens of children I fostered and the seven whom we adopted. But, I digress with my thoughts.
What I really want to tell you today is that children can know God, experience God, hear from God and have their own relationship with God. God can be just as real, perhaps even more so, to them as to you. I believe that their uncluttered minds and innocent hearts are especially sensitive to God. Look at this verse where the boy Samuel had his first encounter with God. According to Jewish Historian, Josephus, he was about twelve years old.
“Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The Word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. A third time the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” Then Eli realized that God was calling the boy. 1Samuel 3:7,8
Eli was raising Samuel. Samuel had been being trained in service at the Temple. He had been exposed to the things and ways of God, but he did not yet know the Lord himself. Samuel would become a great spiritual leader in his lifetime. Here we see him as a boy and we are privileged to read an account of how his spiritual journey began. Samuel experienced God at a young and tender age. It was not because of a perfect upbringing or a privileged lifestyle. It was the result of a quiet heart and ears that could hear the voice of God.
If you are a Christian parent, you should teach your children what you know bout God. You should share your own experiences and testimonies. You should live in a way that demonstrates your faith properly. But, even more so, you need to do other things. Give them opportunity to have a quiet heart as opposed to a rushed and anxious heart that hastens to the next thing, whatever that thing may be. Pray that their spiritual eyes will be opened so that they can see for themselves. Finally, when they share their moments with God, give credence to them. Don’t be condescending. Don’t imply that their experience can’t be legitimate because it is different than yours. Offer gentle guidance and wisdom, but always be willing to listen.
The most empowering gift you can ever give to your child is permission to know God personally and intimately. Sure, keep their bodies safe, their minds educated and their lives healthy. That’s important as well. But, nothing will shape and form the future of a child like knowing the God of this universe wants a relationship with them and has a purpose for their life. It changes everything. It changes them, their outlook, their dreams, their goals, their plans and our world.