Family Affairs: Families Get Sticky
Families Get Sticky
Religious education is not the responsibility of solely clergy or parochial school systems. Religion begins at home. In the home, religion binds the hearts of family members who strive to maintain the value system of their choice. At home religion must be an enjoyable, practical response to the family's acknowledged creator, redeemer, and provider rather than a heavy burden that is laid down as soon as family members - including parents - get themselves out of sight. But what gets families to the religious sticking point?
Prayer is the beginning that powers faithfulness, and it goes farther than assuming a certain position on certain days, at certain times of the day, or in certain locations. Just as prayer at meals, commonly called "grace", can be about more than food, so prayer at the bedside can be about more than sleep. When my son's older daughter, now age 4, stays with us while her parents are on one of their two annual deep-sea diving trips, every pause in her busy day is a time to pray, "Please, be with Mommy and Daddy"- including at every meal. And then her 2-year-old sister chimes in.
Needs and fears are prompts to prayer, but so are the times of joy. My son shared: "I had talked to her about prayers of giving thanks early in the day. That evening I said yes to her request for a Popsicle. She went to the kitchen, and I heard the refrigerator door open and close. Then I heard a little voice softly say, "Thank you, God, for my Popsicle." For this child, prayer is a practical and natural part of her day. And, by the way, her prayers during their diving trips is as much about their fun as their safety, because she can't wait until she can dive with them.
Telling children how and why to pray also requires modeling a prayer life for prayer to become their reality. When children pray spontaneously seems to mirror their temperament and personality as well as their understanding. Families that daily pray together find it easy to take the next step: studying together.
The Word. The concept of hiding the word "in my heart" as voiced in the Judaeo-Christian belief system (Psalm 119:16) is evident in the family lifestyle of daily studying the Word. Bookstores and Web sites abound with free information that enable daily short and meaningful worship times in the home.
Song. The Hallmark Hall of Fame classic, Sarah Plain and Tall, is still a favorite with me, because the family sang together just because they were together. As easily as a child and parent can learn a TV jingle, they can learn - or compose - jingles that matter to the life they imagine for themselves in the future, echo their fun, and give them comfort now. Yesterday on my return trip from Florida, I stood in at my space in the boarding line, Section A, number 17. Standing next to me but at about boarding numbers 32-37, a group of adults returning from a business conference were having a lively discussion about the safest place to sit in a plane. One lamented, "I'll never get to sit in a wing seat. But the time I board, they'll all be gone." His companions offered suggestions for other "safe" places, but his face was still long and somber. "I won't get one of those either," He mumbled. So I turned to him and hummed just three words, "Anywhere with Jesus." The man and his entire group broke into smiles and laughter. They knew the tune, and they echoed, "That's right!" How and where they learned the song, I'll never know - my entrance into their life ended as quickly as it began. But I can only imagine that they had sung that song somewhere, sometime. At home?
Certainly. The religious guidance given by clergy and educators is a good thing, but I believe that parents must retain possession of the keys to their family's religious growth in their common living space. My experience has been that parents - and siblings - are the models that matter. They have sticky power.
Faith Johnson Crumbly is a writer and motivational speaker for Essential Pieces Communication Strategies, firstname.lastname@example.org.