Love Water

Essay by Toni Reynolds on 17 October 2019 0 Comments

Everything that God called forth comes from the Water, everything we know in our world today was created except for the Water, it was already here. Even among scientists there is continued debate about where Water came from, how it got here. No matter the angle, Water’s presence in our reality is a precious, life-giving mystery.

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Question

How should I respond if my young children take the stories of the Bible literally when I don’t believe in a literal reading?

Answer

Dear Reader,

Similar to the way you respond to children who believe in the myth of Santa and tooth fairies.

As a family, you can choose to not participate in those particular myths at all, and from the get go, prioritize telling your children this isn’t real, these stories never happened, but you can enjoy them as fictional accounts that lots of people in the world have fun imagining. Perhaps this works for you, but to me, it feels like it robs children of a season of whimsy and delight.

Or, you could fully immerse yourself in their world of imaginary thinking, and pretend with them it’s all real. Bake Santa cookies and tell stories of the elf’s adventures in the night. Although with this route, at some point when they outgrow their developmental stage of fantasy, you’ll have to contend with your white lies, as benign and well-intentioned they may be; and some children may not take well to this, breaching your trust with them.

I think the best of both worlds is to affirm their imagination, honoring their brain development, and scaffold their understanding for more nuanced criticism as they grow into mature cognitive processes.

It is possible to affirm their steadfast literal belief in stories while not necessarily endorsing their views. Validate their enthusiasm with open-ended questions, like, “Wow, you think that’s how it happened? How would you feel if you were Jonah in the belly of a big fish?” Entertain their imagination, not in a condescending way, but to participate in their mental world with empathy.

When they begin asking direct questions like, “Mommy, did the fish REALLY swallow Jonah?” That’s a sign they are starting to mature and test the boundaries of fact or fiction. This would be a good time to scaffold our responses—challenging them to a higher-level of thinking without overwhelming them. Follow your child’s lead and interest to investigate with them how marine animals consume their food, whether humans can survive in the belly of animals. Let them connect the dots because there may still be a phase where they can hold both facts and fiction in tandem. And of course, as they grow into even higher maturity in teen years and beyond, you can engage in deeper discussions of how ancient mythologies came to be, and offer your personal beliefs in how you hold biblical stories as valuable (or not) in your own life.

~ Cindy Wang Brandt

 

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