The ‘go, grow, and glow’ concept of spiritual parenthood
WHEN I was small, like most children, I had trouble finishing my food. Dad had an ingenious way of making me finish what was on the plate.
“Here comes an airplane! Oh, no!!! It’s out of fuel and needs to land! Quick!!! Open the mouth of the cave!”
I excitedly welcomed the “spoon-airplane” regardless of what cargo it had. I was simply enjoying myself seeing and hearing dad recreate a dogfight, a crash landing, and a rescue operation that all mysteriously ended up inside my mouth!
Now I wonder what parents have to do in order to help their children take in spiritual food that often looks very unattractive and burdensome.
There is no fixed approach to introducing children to a relationship with Christ. They will, at some point, become restless during family prayers, avoid the task of leading grace before/after meals, and get distracted during Mass and other services.
First, we must remind ourselves of some things:
(a) We were pretty much like them when we were their age;
(b) We cannot give what we do not have or what we don’t practice;
(c) Transmitting the spiritual life isn’t about ideas and norms, but introducing them to the person of Jesus Christ.
Of these ideas, I would like to focus on the second. Even though our children’s spiritual life doesn’t develop as expected, we should carry on with our own relationship with Jesus. Because this is the more important thing, and what will most likely happen later to our children’s spiritual life will depend on this.
So how should we go about doing this?
I’m reminded about a baby food supplement that creatively advertised some years ago the following tagline: Go, Grow, and Glow!
GO – Our spiritual life (i.e. prayers, sacraments, corporal works of mercy, etc.) must be on the go! It must be alive and fruitful. We must overcome feeling content to be “Sunday Catholics” ingesting “click-inspired and shared spiritual content”. Our children must experience how we naturally live our Baptismal commitments to God and others.
GROW – What grows naturally bears fruits, but the measure of growing spiritually is not to have measure. Moreover, true growth implies the qualities of being constant, concrete, and calm.
Genuine growth is one that is constant. Likewise, constant growth must be aimed at concrete areas to grow in and not simply what one subjectively feels like doing. And above all, it must be calm, because it allows the Spirit to work peacefully in the soul.
GLOW – Who we are as parents becomes the most wonderful lesson we impart to our children. Yes, we are far from perfect! But in an invisible manner, the Spirit will display our spiritual identity to them. We will often not even be aware of it! As we strive to GO and GROW, the human and supernatural virtues will start blossoming! For example, one’s life will be often branded with smiles and cheerful presence. The Sign of the Cross is made calmly and piously. The vocal prayers are attentively pronounced to Someone and not routinely recited.
One grows in his capacity to offer numerous hidden sacrifices to make life more pleasing, such as, living order and cleanliness in small things; complaining less about some minor hang-ups, reacting with more compassion and understanding for the shortcomings of others, and discerning how to accompany others in a more natural and attractive way along the spiritual life.