Growing Up With God

The 99 names of God-Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi
The 99 names of God-Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi

“Can you teach me?”
“About What?”
“About religion?”
“You should ask your mom to tell you about Christianity. I won’t do it justice.”
“Okay but then can you teach me about Islam. I just want to know God.”

Maybe it was her interest in God or the fact that her parents never told her about God, but eight year old Lisa, who I’d known since her age of one, left me speechless. As I sat there reading the English translation of the Quran, preoccupied with my own spiritual thoughts, her plea sparked an epiphany. Perhaps, our culture went too far in separating church and state so that it left in us a sense of longing to know God. We no longer feel comfortable talking about God in the public square. We try to discover ourselves in all other things except in our Creator. Our individualism plaques our mind and keeps us in a loop of an identity crisis. We fail to reach the Self-Actualization at the peak of Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Is this a reason for the forever looming insecurities in our youth today? Was America separated from her soul?1

Lisa was undoubtedly the smartest girl I knew. Her parents had been prepping and schooling her since day one. They never wanted her to be like an average child with an average education in an average culture. They wanted her to be successful, not fall prey to the immorals of society, and live a happy, prosperous life—just like any parent would want for their child’s future. But Lisa’s parents forgot one thing. A spiritual, religious education. As they prepped her for the best of the best they forgot the nature of mankind. The need for an identity, a place of being, and answers to our existence. Every human asks these questions and children are the most innocent, vulnerable beings. We hear of celebrities, know of relatives, and see our friends fall into the tragedy of these questions left unanswered. Depression, addiction, suicide, unfulfilled expectations, and lack of contentment in everyday lives is due to the forgone knowledge and spiritual connection. Faith: gives life a purpose, a route to mental happiness, a motivation to succeed, and a value of family. If Melissa’s parents really wanted her to succeed, they would not only work on her tangible success but also mental. They would give her a foundation of faith and spirituality that would sustain and grow in life.

NO GOD

Kids now are raised not knowing god. When given a chance they will step right up to understand His creation, but leave them long enough they will find comfort in their friends and others. They will find little purpose to life, but to entertain themselves. They begin to live a life of gossip, music, drugs, sex, money, or other aspects of personal satisfaction. They question their identity and search all their lives. The world and its demands seem a burden for them.  And they neglect the rights of others—for example their parents. Children try to please their parents when they are young. But as soon as they reach a point of growth they please their friends. Parents, then wonder why their child, to whom they dedicated life in service to, is neglecting them, valuing friends over family. But if parents taught their children about God, the contrary would happen. Parents would get the attention they deserve if the child had a moral background and understanding to act in a manner of selflessness. Children would not act like the bird in the nest who takes flight the moment it can flap its wings, or the cub that becomes independent after a mother is done milking. In both cases there is no sense of responsibility to the parents and today’s culture has lost this character of responsibility that would differentiate us from the animals. Therefore, parents must foster positivity and spirituality so children grow up to take responsibility, adopt a strong identity, have innovative minds, and live a life of fulfillment.

TOO MUCH GOD

I will not deny that there is the opposite category of parents who create an imbalance in their education of God. These parents that do teach their child about God, only teach them what Not to do. Don’t do this. Don’t do that. Don’t lie. Don’t hit. Don’t touch that. Don’t go there. Don’t talk back. Don’t yell. The DON’Ts dominate the life of a child who is never taught what to DO. There are the DON’Ts of fearing God but not it’s equivalent DOs of loving God. Even God in the Quran mentions heaven the same number of times He mentions hell, so that no human becomes too hopeless with the despair of fire, nor too hopeful with the ease of paradise. There is an equal balance for the desired outcome. Parents need this balance. These parents, like those who don’t teach their child about God at all, fall prey to the failure of their child’s growth. They tell their child so many don’ts that either the child thinks God is merciless and hateful or become rebellious of their parents and God, hurting themselves and their mental happiness. No doubt the blame is to the parent who never gave thought to parenting.

PROPER PARENTING

Whether its a culture that abolished God, or a parent that enforced too much God, the proper parenting skills starts from the parent changing his/her own mentality. To convert everything from the negative to the positive. Tell the child all the Dos and answer the whys? Tell the truth. Why is lying bad? Count your blessings. Why is wanting more greed? Be kind. Why is being mean bad? Be soft spoken. Why is talking back bad? Go here. Why going there is bad? Teach the child so the guilt of doing bad is self-created, not through the parent. Teach the child to pray with love in their hearts so their prayer sustains throughout their lives. Let them pray not because you tell them to, but because you have embedded love for God in their hearts. Let them reflect and appreciate, not move mechanically though live.  Give them examples. Have experiences that teach empathy not just sympathy. Embed in their minds the positive so they don’t linger on life’s negatives. Encourage good outcomes and discourage bad. Don’t let fear takeover a child, always bring out the love. This love will be self–sustained so when the child grows up there is so much positivity drummed in their hearts and minds that success, identity, high-self-esteem, and optimism comes naturally.

“Yes, I can tell you about Islam,” I told Lisa. But I made up my mind to first tell her mother.
“And you can quiz me,” she said, “and I will take notes.” Her enthusiasm was refreshing for my own faith.
“Of course,” I said, smiling. I could’t deny a spiritual education to a motivated young girl.

1: Global Peace Convention 2014

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