RICHLAND -- It was a proud moment for my wife and me as we celebrated the graduation of our son from Hanford High last May.
As I sat in the stands watching the ceremony, I recalled spiritual lessons gained over the years about raising children.
One lesson I learned was to see each child as unique and special; a whole complete being made in the image of God, not in the image of mom or dad.
When we discovered our son could play improvisational jazz, I was surprised.
"Where did he get that talent?" I bemused.
It didn't come from me, a pianist who needs notes on paper to play, or mom, who doesn't play an instrument.
When we discovered our daughter could swim like a fish -- a fast one -- I asked my wife with a chuckle, "Where did she learn to swim so well?"
It didn't come from me or mom, two folks happy to stand on dry land.
As our children grew older, it became apparent that their individuality was not of our making. There was something more going on behind the scenes that needed explanation.
The Bible states, "God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them" (Gen 1:27 KJV). In pondering these words, I saw that every child has an individuality established in the mind of God long before we know them. Because God's work is finished, parenting is not about creating children, but about bearing witness to a child of God already divinely conceived.
Parenting became so much easier when I realized this truth. Rather than seeing our children as empty vessels needing to be filled, I practiced seeing a complete, whole, intelligent being already formed.
For instance, if grades were falling, rather than getting upset and angry, followed by a stern lecture, I prayed to see the child as an intelligent being able to perform well in school.
If they felt incapable, I'd remind them how capable they were. If they were ornery, I'd see them as wanting to be cooperative, giving and caring, and treat them that way. If they were angry, I'd pray to see them as unselfish, loving and peaceful creatures of divine love.
No matter what trouble loomed, I would first get my spiritual view of them clear, then sit down for a chat to help them see the same. And the response was very positive.
When I tried in the past to "fix them," I faced resentment and maybe outright rebellion. But when I saw them as wanting to do the right thing without cajoling, prodding or heated debate, their thoughts opened readily to ideas I shared. We got along much better; in fact, very well.
And so raising children became raising consciousness, lifting thought to what divine mind had built into our children long before they appeared in our family. And it has been a joy. I look forward to the decades ahead.
* Evan Mehlenbacher is a Christian Science practitioner and teacher in Richland, and a member of First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Pasco.
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