WHILE cleaning her daughter's room recently, a friend was stunned to discover that the eleven-year-old had scrawled the word life on paper and crossed it out with a huge ``X.'' There were satanic symbols, too, and a makeshift will. Another friend was approached on the street by a young boy selling drugs. He couldn't believe his eyes; the boy was about the same age as his nine-year-old son.
For all its rewards, being a parent these days has got to be one of the toughest jobs going. But then, these are not easy times to be a child, either. Innocence and purity, spirituality and meekness, are not especially valued in a materialistic age. In fact, materialism would seek to crush out these things altogether -- in all of us. It could make a child feel his life just isn't worth much. It might induce self-hatred, anger, and confusion about right and wrong.
I've known children and teen-agers who have struggled with these feelings. But I've also seen that Christly love and prayer can neutralize negative mental influences and free children to be themselves again -- to think rightly and choose good. Every time this has happened, I've had the feeling that deep down, silently, the youngster was saying all along, ``I was hoping you wouldn't give up on me. I was really hoping someone would help.''
Christ Jesus said, ``It is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.''1 The Master's way -- the example of the man who overcame the worldand its hatred of spirituality -- is the Christian's model. So we look to what he said, how he healed, and how he prayed, and there we learn what's most needed in our efforts to help children. It's to think of them and love them from a spiritual standpoint, as Jesus would have. It's to have the Mind of Christ.
This requires of us a willingness -- a childlike willingness -- to let God radically change our way of looking at things. For example, it includes the recognition that every person is much more than what he or she appears to be. This means, in thinking about children, that we're willing to look beyond mortality's mask to discern something of what Jesus knew -- the great fact that man, in reality, belongs to God and is purely spiritual and Godlike, never the medium of evil.
Now, that is a different way of looking at man than we may be used to. But Christian Science shows that this spiritual, more Christian view gives us a solid basis from which to defend children through prayer. It helps us push past the impression of an inevitable downward course or the feeling that some children are just plain ``bad.'' What's being acted out in their lives is so often just an echo of popular, materialistic currents of thought, not their natural inclinations at all.
It takes Christly love, the patient, powerful love Jesus expressed, to reach and heal a child who lashes out or who puts up a tough exterior and refuses help. This love, which comes from God, doesn't cover up wrongdoing but destroys it through the understanding that it is no part of the ideal man. It doesn't condemn the child or approach him from a standpoint of superiority; it redeems him on the basis of the superiority of good over evil. Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science, reminds us, ``There is divine authority for believing in the superiority of spiritual power over material resistance.''2
For no apparent reason a friend's five-year-old became uncharacteristically cranky and difficult. This went on for a few weeks, and it was exasperating. She and her husband tried to help him, patiently reasoning with him and reminding him that he didn't really want to be bad. And he'd insist, ``Oh yes I do! I like being mean!''
Then one day it quietly occurred to her, ``He is begging you to pray for him.''
My friend, a Christian Scientist, prays regularly for her son. But suddenly she realized her prayers needed to be more fervent and specific. So that night she mentally challenged the nasty temperament as an imposition on him and not part of his true, Godlike nature. She prayed diligently. She was sure that, in spite of how he acted or what he said, he really wanted to feel free to be good again. The next morning there was a dramatic change. The child was his normal happy self and has remained so.
``Ye are of God, little children,'' a New Testament writer told fellow Christians, ``and have overcome them [false prophets]: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.''3 The Christ in each of us -- we might say, our spiritual innocence and goodness -- is always greater than any claim the world may make on our lives. The proof of this in a given case may not come overnight, and it may not be easily won. But we can remember that the Master proved Christ always has the last word. It always, ultimately wins.
The children belong to God. And so do we.
1Matthew 18:14. 2Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 134. 3I John 4:4.
BIBLE VERSE: Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. I Thessalonians 5:5