This blog in it's original form was posted at www.Renovare.org Confront a three year old with, “Did you eat the candy out of your brother’s Christmas stocking?” And you will likely get a, “No.” But their bodies will tell the truth. Their eyes will look away, their shoulders will curve inwardly and some will fidget.
The Candle Light Christmas Eve service is one I would never miss. Rows and rows of children wiggling with fire is a delight to the eyes. (And frankly a bit of an adrenaline rush as I visually locate the fire extinguisher and count the exits.) Their excitement for Christmas morning cannot be hidden in their bodies. They simply can’t pull it off.
It’s why children dance in the worship service while adults try to contain them. We, adults, have learned to hide the joy of the Lord in our bodies, they have not… yet.
One of the ways we help children in their life with God, is by helping them to keep their parts connected. Mind/emotions/thoughts and feelings, connected to spirits/hearts and bodies. There are many ways to foster this connection. Here are a few…
- Acknowledge that bodies are good. We get lots of feedback from our culture saying that certain kinds of bodies are good and others are not. We, as followers of an Incarnate God, say, “No way.” All bodies are good. We even get feedback from some in the Christian community saying that bodies are bad. Granted often what we do with our bodies is destructive, but that usually comes from separating the body from the spirit. Turning a person into a thing. Bullying is an example of this. So is sexism and racism.
- One of my greatest struggles, when my children were small, came in the form of confronting "The Public Tantrum." The “I know you are upset, but we are in Target and you need to shape up,” said through clinched teeth while half the store has stopped and is staring. The mind/emotions are indeed upset and the body is simply living in sync. As children grow older they do need to learn the appropriateness of, “there is a time and place for everything;” but forcing them to shut off emotion to satisfy my own embarrassment is not healthy for either of us. Each situation is different and each person is different, so it's hard to find one solution, but I think the place we start is by listening. Stopping and actively listening. Then we think, how can I acknowledge emotions and help my child move them into appropriate expressions?
- Help their experiences of God to flow into their bodies as well as their minds. When we experience God in all our parts we grow strong and balanced. Try assigning parts and acting out the miracles of Jesus. Try praying with your body. Roy DeLeon’s book, Praying with the Body is a great place to start. Read Psalm 23 aloud, invite your children to act it out with their bodies.
- Take frequent nature walks and name all the bodies you see, including the human ones. Pray simple prayers to thank God for his good creation.
How do you keep parts in sync? (Both yours and the people who leave their gum on your kitchen table.)
*An insightful book that talks about the parts of the person is Dallas Willard's Renovation of the Heart.