Thursday, June 7, 2007

Charlotte Mason on the Spiritual Life

Says Charlotte Mason, "Few grown-up people, alas! have so keen and vivid a sense of sin as a little trangressor say of six or seven. Many a naughty, passionate, or sulky and generally hardened little offender is so, simply because he does not know, with any personal knowledge, that there is a Saviour of the world, who has for him instant forgiveness and waiting love."

I remember the moment I came to the Lord. It was as if the years of a well-protected hardened heart simply vanished from existence. The fearful striving and worried years spent in the amoral pursuit of an unknown goal in the hopes of finding peace were realized in an instant. I became an altogether different person because of this incredible gift of forgiveness. I was free. The burden of my years and years of sin was lifted and joy flooded my heart. My life had new purpose. I know that forgiveness does indeed lighten a burdened heart.

This comment from Charlotte Mason reminds me of the book Shepherding a Child's Heart by Ted Tripp. In this book, we are shown how to use every transgression our children make as an opportunity to point out their desperate need for a Savior. With each argument, each deceit, each and every sullen look, we are to take the child in hand and shepherd their heart, showing them the condition of their heart. This act of shepherding is what leads them to the knowledge of both their inability to keep from sinning, their depravity and the only solution to their futile condition: The Blood of Jesus Christ that was shed for them on Calvary.

"The habit of regularity in children's devotions [prayer] is very is worth while to remark that the evening prayers of children and of school girls and boys should not be left until the children are tired and drop asleep over their evening exercises. After tea [the afternoon] is a good set time for prayers when it can be managed."

Here, Charlotte Mason is expressing that children should develop a habit of a personal prayer time. I can see the value of developing this as an afternoon habit rather than a bedtime activity.

I consider prayer the most profoundly affecting exercise. Prayer is such a privelege. The child of God that does not pray is like a hungry dog unaware that he has a large steak in his bowl. God desires so much to bless us, to give to His children whom He adores, if only we would ask, and believe in His love and desire to bless us abundantly. However, the problem is often not that we don't believe that prayer is profitable, but rather, that we haven't formed the habit of prayer.

Our family prays every morning as a group during our devotional time. However, it's more of a corporate prayer time. I would love to have the kids develop the habit of spending solitary devotional time right after we complete school. A personal prayer and quiet time would be good for all of us after we have done our work.

When the children were young and napped regularly, I often spent the afternoon hours reading and writing in my prayer journal. I could relate much more to Mary over Martha during that period in my life. I just couldn't figure out what Martha was thinking. Now, Martha and I are kindred spirits. I could write a book on her perspective.

I believe we will begin today with an afternoon time of personal devotion and prayer. I know I need it. I can't wait to see how it changes the dynamics of their afternoon play after they have spent time with the LORD. Perhaps my afternoons and evenings will be a much more peaceful affair as well.

"The importance of reverent attitudes is a little apt to be overlooked in these days. We are, before all things, sincere, and are afraid to insist upon 'mere forms,' feeling it best to leave the child to the natural expression of his own emotions. Here perhaps we are wrong, as it is just as true to say that the form gives birth to the feeling as that the feeling should give birth to the form. Children should be taught to take time, to be reverent at grace before meals, at family prayers, at their own prayers, in church, when they are old enough to attend....'Because of the angels' should be a thought to repress unbecoming behavior in children."

I was touched by Charlotte Mason's summary of reverence in children. This is only a portion of that summary. To have our children be reverent, even considering the truth that angels are watching them at all times, is a precious concept. We seem so often to live in the natural, and forget the very genuine reality of the supernatural.

I worry in this modern culture that we have forsaken reverence. It seems amazing to me that, even in the late 1800's, there was the issue of overlooking reverence. Because I grew up Catholic, I was taught to revere God. Unfortunantely, I wasn't also taught about relationship. Yet, the reverence I felt in church was precious and nourishing to my soul - however lost it was at the time.

I wonder how we can go about instilling a sense of reverence in our children's lives, and perhaps in our own lives.

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