Monday, July 20, 2015

Vision for Children, Fourth Installment

(A portion of the plenary speech given at the Charlotte Mason Institute, June 20, 2015)

One powerful example of this I recall is the memory I have of lying on the carpet in our living room, staring at the sun streaks across the floor, listening intently to a Scottish lady reading a story on the radio. I think I must have been sick, because it was a Sunday morning and we were regular church-goers, but I always wished thereafter that I could stay home on Sundays and listen to this program. That day, it was the story of Joseph and his coat of many colors. I had never heard it before.  This memory is still filled with a touch of the wonder I felt that morning, a vividly lit-up moment out of the forgotten hours of childhood. I remember thinking it wasn’t fair that Joseph was spoiled and his brothers didn’t have such a special coat. I felt sorry for them. But then they were wicked to him, and my allegiance immediately transferred to poor Joseph, his coat gone, and feeling his terror myself at being kidnapped, while I lay there on the floor, rigid with attention, desperate to know how it would work out. I truly remember pretending the bars of sunlight on the floor were the bars of my own jail cell. Then his dream came true, and all was a thrilling ending with his father and brothers coming to him, food in famine given, forgiveness and reconciliation – not that I knew those concepts then, but I sensed the satisfying relief of knowing that relationships were restored.

That story delighted me. I remember sitting up when it ended, looking out the front window at the sunshine and thinking that God is like that, shining on Joseph in his dark times, taking care of us wherever we are. I was three or four years old. This idea came back to me repeatedly, that God works for good even when we don’t know why things are happening. A seed was planted that long-ago morning, a seed that has been fed and watered throughout my life. With the perspective of years, I now see that it was even more crucial for another idea – that the Bible is supremely appealing and unique. Every time afterward that the Bible was referenced, I was all ears, specially attentive.

Mason understood how this happens. She had strong convictions about reading the Bible to children: "I think we make a mistake in the burying of the text under our endless comments and applications. Also, I doubt if the picking out of individual verses and grinding these into the child until they cease to have any meaning with him, is anything but a hindrance to the spiritual life. The word is full of vital force, capable of applying itself. A seed, light as thistledown, wafted into the child’s soul will take root downwards and bear fruit upwards. What is required of us is that we should implant a love of the word; that the most delightful moments of a child’s day should be those in which his mother reads for him…beautiful stories of the bible.”(Home Education, pg 349) Elsewhere she says, “By degrees, they will see that the world is a stage whereon the goodness of God is continually striving with the willfulness of man…they will take sides without much exhortation or thought or talk of spiritual experience.” (Home Education, pg 249)

And she also wrote: [“The child] should not be able to recall a time before the sweet stories of old filled his imagination; he should have heard the voice of the Lord God calling in the garden in the cool of the evening; should have been a spectator when the angels ascended and descended upon Jacob’s stony pillow; should have followed Christ through the cornfield on the Sabbath day and sat in the rows of the huge multitude so long ago, that such sacred scenes form the unconscious background of his thoughts. All things are possible to the little child, and the touch of the spiritual upon our material world, the difficult problems, the hard sayings, which give offense to his elders, present no difficulty to the child’s all-embracing faith.” (Parents and Children, pg 108-109) She knew that “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God,” and that the “living and active” word of God works uniquely within us.

(To be continued)

For the joy of reading,

Liz

4 comments:

  1. Liz, I am thoroughly enjoying reading your plenary speech. It is so helpful to hear others speak of the ways that stories formed them when they were very small--or sparked something in them then--especially when those stories were from the Bible. It almost makes me weep sometimes when I hear stories of people who delighted in the Scriptures as children, who found the words compelling and captivating and delightful. I was not one of those children (though whether that was the fault of the grinding in of memory verses or something inherent in me, I dare not speculate), so stories like yours encourage me greatly as I attempt to raise my children to hear the voice of the Lord God in the garden in the coolness of the evening and to see the ladders of angels. Thank you.

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    1. Kimberlee,

      I am truly glad you are being encouraged. The Bible is still my favorite book and always will be. I really did always have a fascination with it as a child and also hope to convey that to my children now.

      Liz

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  2. What a beautiful memory you have about that story! Thanks for continuing to share your speech. SO encouraging! :)

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    1. I just hope we are all filling our children's memory banks.

      Glad you're enjoying the series.

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