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Spiritual Growth
Photo: Marc Garrido i Puig
A few years ago I received a gift of a planter with three cacti from Arizona. In anticipation that they would flourish and grow, I placed the pot on my kitchen window sill along with several other plants. Every time I would water the other plants, I had this great urge to water the cactus. Even though the directions said to water it with only one tablespoon a month, sometimes I would slip it just a little sip of water-surely it would be happy for some moisture. But after several months, one of the cactus started leaning a bit, and I saw at the base that the coloring and texture of the plant was changing. I had watered it too much. In a way, I was killing it with kindness.

Does this have something to do with a child’s spiritual growth? Yes, I believe it does. In order to survive, a child certainly needs air, food, water, and shelter. And so do plants. But each type of plant needs the best kind of dirt (shelter), food (fertilizer and water), and air for that particular plant to flourish and grow. And so does each child. Each one is an individual and needs care specific to his or her unique needs.

Nurturing Your Child's Spiritual Growth 

It can be challenging to know just what a specific type of care a plant needs.  It may be even more challenging to know just what a child needs to flourish and grow spiritually.

What practices and beliefs are necessary to instill spirituality in a child? In this short space, I’ll reflect on a few.

A child needs to live in a family with a strong sense of ethics (the way we treat ourselves and others) and values (the core beliefs of our family). Each one needs a feeling of security that takes him or her through the pain and disappointments of life. We can build the foundation of a child’s prayer life by praying with her and for her in times of celebration and concern.

Children need a sense of tradition and community. The familiar rituals of the church service, regularly attending the events sponsored by the church, and participation in church programs-all will strengthen a sense of belonging for a child.

A child will eventually decide for himself what he wants to believe about spiritual things.  However, parents are the most influential guides for a child and are the most important source of direction.

I invite you to consider how you are modeling trust and goodness. Are you emotionally available when your child needs you? Do you share your reasons for your faith and how that strengthens your life? Do you acknowledge God’s wonderful works in His creation on a daily basis?

A child needs to know he is loved for who he is, not for what he does or does not do.  A child needs to be uniquely loved and cherished… and that’s the challenging part. “How do I unconditionally love my child and yet instill in her the religious beliefs I value so dearly?” That parallels the question, “How do I take care of this particular plant?”

Think about this:  Maybe you like violets, but the Lord placed a cactus in your care. Or maybe you like pine trees, but the Lord placed a rhododendron in your care.

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By Susan E. Murray. Copyright © 2012 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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