Given the recent violence in Israel between extremist groups, and the relative youth of those who were swept up in the violence, I am moved to write this week about how becoming soulful parents is not something that is nice or even optional. It is necessary and muscular. It simply flexes different kinds of muscles.
Lisa Miller in, The Spiritual Child (Picador, 2016) warns about what happens when we don’t develop a child’s natural spirituality. Children, when they become teenagers and young adults, will look for transcendent experiences elsewhere, that usually results in highly risky behavior. She says:
“With physical puberty comes a biologically primed surge in natural spirituality. Teens are propelled like clockwork into an accentuated hunger for transcendence, a search for ultimate meaning and purpose, and the desire for intuitive connection.” (Lisa Miller)
For the youth participating in the violence last week, their hunger for meaning, purpose and connection was motivated by extreme nationalistic views and led to violence.
How can parents everywhere channel the hunger that will inevitably come in the adolescent years toward right action that affirms life? And how can those of us who have younger children lay the groundwork that feeds and cultivates their natural spirituality early on?
Flexing our spiritual muscles is essential. But some parents are uncomfortable with spiritual language (like God and Prayer) and ambivalent about what spirituality means for them. Being with our children when they are young, to develop and cultivate their spiritual capacity is key. Simply showing up to be a part of the conversation, to ask questions along with them when they wonder out loud about what God is, what happens when you die, and what it means to be a good person, expresses to them that they have partners on their path toward spiritual development.
And when our children misbehave and act in ways that don’t suit us or are even against our values, do we shun them? Or do we try to understand that our role is to listen to what is behind their ego voice presenting itself which says, “this is who I am now, take it or leave it!” and become attuned to their soul voice which whispers, “This is what I am struggling with, this is how I hurt, and I need you to sit alongside me.”
I have been carrying the following prayer with me this week. It is the Hassidic master Rebbe Nachman’s Prayer for Peace:
“שֶׁלֹּא בָאנוּ לְזֶה הָעוֹלָם בִּשְׁבִיל רִיב וּמַחֲלֹקֶת, וְלֹא בִּשְׁבִיל שִׂנְאָה וְקִנְאָה וְקִנְטוּר וּשְׁפִיכוּת דָּמִים; רַק בָּאנוּ לָעוֹלָם כְּדֵי לְהַכִּיר אוֹתְךָ, תִתְבָּרֵךְ לָנֶצַח.”
“We did not come into this world to argue and fight, and we did not come into this world to hate and to be jealous, to tease or to spill blood. We came into this world just to know You, God, the One who will be blessed forever.”
Keeping faith in our children and their capacity to grow and change, even when they are in a troubling spot right now, and keeping faith in ourselves and our capacity to guide our children are the muscles we need to flex now.
Blessings for the journey,