And gently lead those that are with young.
Parents of young children deserve special compassion from the rest of us. I remember what it was like to juggle two crying children under the age of three at a grocery store. One particularly stressful afternoon, I left a full cart in the middle of an aisle, picked up both overly tired screaming boys in my arms and headed to the car, too exasperated and embarrassed to continue shopping. I was badly in need of a dose of gentleness that day. When I see a mom in that predicament at the grocery store now, I offer whatever help she may need at the moment, because I remember what it was like. It is my responsibility to help those who are responsible for children.
Instead of it taking a village to raise a child, it is my experience that a church family is a safer bet. As we hunted for a church home with our two young boys, it was important to see which church made them feel just as welcome as their parents. Some worship services discouraged the inclusion of young children in the sanctuary, shuttling them to nursery or classes instead. I loved what I saw at Wiser Lake Chapel, the little church we eventually joined: young children were part of the regular worship, learning to sit quietly, sometimes with surrogate grandparents equipped with colored pencils and paper to draw pictures, or to start taking sermon notes to post on the Chapel refrigerator for all to see. There was a collaborative sense of devotion to the nurturing of each child in the church, through support of their parents, even if that meant being tolerant of the occasional rowdy toddler.
Now that our children are grown, we can be part of the lives of the dozens of younger children who are coming behind them. I love knowing these children trust me enough to come to my arms when they need comforting, and will sit with me during worship, or draw me a special picture. I enjoy playing piano for their Sunday School singing time, hearing them sing the same songs my children learned twenty years ago and that I learned over fifty years ago. We value time we spend with the high schoolers in Sunday School, talking about the often deep and confusing feelings that accompany discovering one’s spiritual beliefs, as well as hosting the youth group in our home.
So in gratitude to the shepherds who lead those who raise children, the continuity of your gentle nurture is deeply appreciated.