spiritual questions and answers
discovering Inner Health and transformation
Ideas about spiritual awakening during childhood
Hoffman’s findings about children
Profound intuitions in children
How common is spiritual awakening in children?
Implanting of spiritual feelings in children
Importance of re-connecting to our childhood spirituality
My daughter Bridget died 21 months old. She had never walked or crawled but could sit propped up. She couldn’t see. She was born three months premature, the first of twins. Her brother was stillborn.
She was a much-loved sister to my three grown-up stepsons. She gave so much joy in her short life.
After the shock of her death one of my first thoughts was that now she would be able to walk and skip and run and move about like other children – and see! She would be able to see other children and play with them.
What a surprise it must have been to her to ‘wake up’ and see people. What a strange experience for her, never having seen anyone before. I wonder if an angel mother held her while she moved from our world to the next. She had been used to the sense of touch, of being held, and that would be comforting. Seeing would be a strange new dimension in a whole new world.
That she could run and see I had no doubt. Her frailties of this life belonged here. She had, so to speak, emerged from her frail body like a butterfly from a chrysalis, leaving behind all the infirmities associated with it. This was the image I had of her – a young child running and skipping and seeing. A loss to us, but such a gain for her – wholeness in body and health.
She had hydrocephalus and was in hospital because of a blocked shunt preventing the water draining from her brain. My last real memory is of holding her in my arms in the ambulance as she was transferred from the local to the specialist hospital.
Bridget was in hospital. I was at home when she died. I wasn’t there with her.
I can imagine her being held by an angel mother as she left this life; just held in the comfort of those strong, loving arms for as long as it took to be ready to ‘waken up’ in her new life.
She would be bathed and clothed and fed by her angel mother and cared for in her home. The body she now has is in every way like the physical body she had in this world except that it is of spiritual substance, not material. She has a head, body and limbs, eyes, ears, nose and mouth and senses.
I wonder if her angel mother held her hands while she took her first steps. Did she crawl first of all, trying out her new-found strength in her arms and legs, and pull herself to her feet? What an adventure! What a brave new world opened up to her!
I wonder how many other children her new mother had? How many new brothers and sisters for Bridget to play and grow up with? For grow up she would eventually. She would grow and develop in her new home with her new family.
Initially resting in their loving sphere and tender care she would come to know them and they to know her. Her mother would know her needs. All in the next life are aware of each other’s thoughts and feelings. Nothing is hidden. They are who they are. No dissembling.
As Bridget got used to the new strength in her body, what freedom she would find moving about, exploring! Before, she had only been able to be where she was placed, unable to move around. I imagine there would be lovely gardens to play in, water to splash about in, sand and clay to build and mould.
I’m sure she would learn by imbibing things from others and doing as they did. She would learn to speak the soft-sounding language of heaven and watch dramatic presentations – a great way of learning.
In her young innocence she would grow up nourished by the love of those around her. She would gain knowledge and understanding, learning that, all she has, is given her by her Heavenly Father. She has no good of her own but receives it as she learns to live a useful life loving her Heavenly Father and her brothers and sisters – all God’s children. She will grow in wisdom.
She will be ‘naughty’ like all children, going her own way until she feels the sadness this causes others.
I wonder if she has a partner, a husband? She would have been 33 years old by now – no longer my little Bridget! I shall have to think of her now as a wise and loving angel!
Is she caring for other children newly-arrived from this world? IS she teaching them as they grow up? She won’t have the joy of children of her own but she will have the joy of sharing her happiness, innocence and love – these will be her children.
How I look forward to being with her again one day!
“All children, no matter where they are born, within the Church or outside it, of devout parents or otherwise, are received by the Lord when they die and educated in heaven.” (Swedenborg, Heaven and Hell section 329)
Copyright 2012 Mary E Duckworth
Posted on29th August 2012
“Smile, God loves you” is an easy thing to say but if God loves us why does he allow us to suffer? How can we reconcile a God of Love with our everyday experience of the world in which we live?
To try and get some idea of how God loves us we could start by thinking about parents and their children. It is a very human thing for parents to try to love their children equally whatever their different characters and abilities and to seek the best for them as individuals whatever happens. Now parenthood is tough and however idealistically parents approach the bringing up of their children it is often the case that one child will think that mother or father loves their sister or brother more than them. And yet that is not what the parents really want or strive to achieve. And if children grow up and go in very different directions to those envisaged by their parents, truly loving parents will continue to love their children just the same.
Now God loves his children, you, me and everyone else, not with the imperfect love which we express in our lives, that has limits and conditions, but with an unconditional love that has no limits and no boundaries and is shared equally with all. And it is the nature of God’s love that it is given with the freedom for us to accept it, reject it or misuse it – there are no conditions in which God’s love is not given – it is unconditional.
In our human relationships we know how wonderful it is if our love for someone else is freely returned – not because they have to love us but because they want to love us. Paradoxically the more freedom we give to those whom we love the greater and stronger is the love that is returned. Force someone to love you and no real mutual love develops. Now offering to love someone and leaving them the freedom to respond or not is a high risk and potentially painful strategy – as most people find out at some stage in their lives when love is not returned.
And this, in a very human and finite way, is an image and likeness of how God loves us. He offers us love and gives us the freedom to say yes or no. God knows that if we return his love then a deep relationship can develop but if we are unable to respond to his love then he feels pain for what might have been.
One of the hardest things a parent has to do is to let their child make mistakes – despite realising the probable pain and suffering that will ensue. Children have to grow and develop and make their own way in the world and not feel they are being manipulated or directed by their parents. They will make the right decisions and the wrong decisions and yet the loving parent has to stand back and not intervene. They just offer advice to their child as to what they should do and then leave their child the freedom to make up their own mind.
And this is how God’s love works with us. God wants us to be happy and to be fulfilled. He wants us to respond to his love in freedom and he shows us how we should live. But because God values our freedom above all else he cannot intervene when he sees things going wrong. If he intervened in the greatest disasters that beset mankind surely he would also have to intervene in even the smallest personal problems in life and then where would we be – we would be like puppets being controlled by God in the play of life.
Bad things happen. God does not want them to happen. But God cannot intervene because of the freedom he gives us to choose to respond or not to his unconditional love. This is the nature of the God who loves you. God loves everyone equally but what we receive of his love depends on our openness to his love and our acknowledgement that all love comes from God. If we respond to his love we can feel loved, free and forgiven and we will then want to share God’s love with those around us.
The love of God is broad like beech and meadow,
wide as the wind, and an eternal home.
God leaves us free to seek him or reject him,
he gives us room to answer ‘Yes’ or ‘No’
There are three things which make up the essence of God’s love – loving others more than oneself, wishing to be one with them, and devoting oneself to their happiness.
It should be known that God is constantly present, continually striving and acting on a person, and touching his free will but never forcing it. For if God were to force a person’s free will, his dwelling in God would be destroyed, and he would be left only with God’s dwelling in him.
Many a parent wonders how good they are at the job. According to the Chief Inspector of Schools, David Bell, many parents fail to impose proper discipline in the home and simply put children in front of the television rather than talk and play with them.
Many studies have described a bad parent as being neglectful or over-controlling. For example, professor Dieter Wolke at the University of Warwick found that such negative parenting is linked to a moderate increase in the risk of being a bully and a small increase in the risk of being a victim of bullying.
None of this may be true for your children. Nevertheless, perhaps as a parent with a conscience you fear you are not giving them enough of your time, or haven’t found the right way to balance being both warm and firm with them in a consistent way. Here are some questions that can help you assess just how good you are in the role of mother or father.
Are you too scared to let them do their own thing?
There is probably a natural urge for any parent to want to jump in to protect the child at the slightest hint of danger. Pamela Druckerman, an American mother living in Paris, said that her heart would regularly jump when walking around her neighbourhood because a French parent often lets small kids race ahead of them on the pavement. They trust their children will stop at the corner and wait for them. “ Watching this is particularly terrifying when the kids are on scooters.”
It is hard to get right when to allow children to learn from their mistakes. Too lax, and you might have a serious injury or worse on your hands. But too protective and your child never experiences sufficient sense of autonomy and does not learn to be street-wise with the self-confidence that goes along with this. The key I feel is self-reflection. What is your inner attitude? Do you construct worst-case parent scenarios or are you able to calmly assess the realistic risks?
Do you get too angry about their failures?
It is surely only natural to feel disappointed from time to time with children’s conduct and performance. Feeling cross for any parent is understandable when we see them being naughty. However, does this anger last? Are we furious when they do poorly on the playing field, or at school tests? For example the aggression and foul-mouthed behaviour of some fathers watching their sons play football. I would argue that such anger expresses an attitude that the children are there to fulfil the parents own frustrated ambitions. Something similar can be heard in the conversation between mothers who politely vie with each other to boast about their own children’s accomplishments.
Do you resent the inconveniences they cause you?
Baby’s cry loudly if uncomfortable and hungry and mothers quickly respond with selfless affection making things better. However, as they get older children also make their demands. And often for their own good they will need you to drop what you are doing to talk with them. How willing are you to spend time with your child doing an activity he or she enjoys even when you are tired or want some time to yourself? It is often personally inconvenient to have to attend to someone else rather than what had been occupying you.
Have you the patience to try to understand how they feel
Focusing on what children are saying and doing is necessary if a parent is to show empathy whilst firmly defining boundaries around right and wrong. If you treat your children with understanding then they will likely treat others the same way. Only your patient communication can help them gain appreciation of what is deeply important and learn to deal with their negative emotions in the context of your loving concern. But trying to talk with kids along such lines may mean a great mental effort and can be emotionally taxing.
Is it too painful for you to let them fly the nest?
A parent who clings to older offspring, failing to provide the slight nudge when it is needed for them to start to live away from the parental home, is doing them no favours. Such a parent seems not to realise that it isn’t about releasing kids into the wild and abandoning them. It is just recognising that a young person is someone in his or her own right, — a separate being with their own life style choices, need for privacy and individual ambition and thus the need to live their own life.
Do you envy them?
Carol Ryff, a psychologist at University of Winsconin found that parents, who thought their kids were better-adjusted than they themselves had been in their twenties, weren’t all that pleased. In fact, thinking their kids were faring better than they had made them downright grumpy. Grown children may evoke envy in some parents and the sense of missed opportunities.
The spiritually-minded or materially-minded parent
According to one point of view, parents who are inwardly self-centred and materialistically minded are more likely to be negative parents. Emanuel Swedenborg wrote that these parents — who he termed ‘naturally-minded’ — feel affection for their small children “kissing and embracing them, carrying them and hugging them to their breasts and make a quite excessive fuss of them.” However, with the growth into adolescence these same parents :
“Pay little or hardly any attention to their inward affections, …but only to the outward features which they find attractive. It is to these their love is attached, fixed and clings. This makes them also close their eyes to their faults, making excuses for these and favouring them. The reason is that in their case the love of their offspring is also a love of themselves” (Emanuel Swedenborg CL 4645)
Copyright 2013 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems
Posted on15th May 2013