TODAY'S parents are much aware of changes in the family. Traditional roles are changing as economic demands and the desire for fulfillment lead men and women to work harder and longer. And the children in the family are affected by these changes. Unemployment, inability to find affordable housing, and challenges within the family itself may also make childhood more difficult for youngsters and may lead parents to feel burdened by their responsibilities. During my own childhood, my mother faced such challenges. She was separated from her husband, who was an alcoholic, when I was only two years old. Because of her need to work, I was left on my own a great deal of the time. Looking back on my childhood now, I see that by teaching me to pray and to turn to God in need as she did, my mother was helping me to see, however dimly, that I never needed to feel alone. I could always turn to God in prayer.
Among the prayers I learned was the Lord's Prayer, which Christ Jesus taught his followers. It begins with the familiar ``Our Father which art in heaven.'' From this prayer I grew to know God as a Father who, because He was Spirit, would be with me wherever I went. This knowledge comforted me many times during my childhood.
When I learned of Christian Science many years later, the Lord's Prayer took on new meaning for me. In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, includes a chapter specifically devoted to prayer. At the conclusion of this chapter she gives the spiritual interpretation of the Lord's Prayer, writing of the first line: ``Our Father-Mother God, all-harmonious....''
The idea of God as Mother was new to me. But I recalled the passage from Isaiah in which God promises, ``As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you.'' Then in thinking of Christ Jesus' life, I remembered the many tender moments in which he expressed the gentleness of a mother. Perhaps the most telling one is his provision -- while he was on the cross -- for his own mother to be taken care of by one of his disciples.
This understanding of God as both our Father and our Mother can do much to help us and our children adapt to the changes society is facing. Since God is ever-present Spirit, there isn't a time when He isn't available to us, if we will turn to Him in prayer. Whether we need to know what to do for our children, or our children themselves need God's guidance, our whole family can rely on this loving Father-Mother for direction. Even in a crowd, we can pray in the privacy of our thoughts.
And in our prayers we can learn to know God as all-intelligent Mind. This Mind is the source of all wisdom and provides us only with ideas that will strengthen us and enable us to experience harmony with others. As we become more accustomed to turning to God for direction, divine Mind's guidance will enable us to cut through any fear and doubt to discern the divine solution.
The Bible also teaches that God is Love. In our dealings with children or parents or those who may be affecting the family, we can rely on Love to show us the way. In our true spiritual nature, we are all the children of Love rather than the offspring of materiality, with all its limitations. And as we learn to know ourselves in this way, we gain new insight into how we can express love to others.
Challenges to the family are part of its evolution over many centuries, and they surely will continue. Yet as we build our lives -- and the lives of our children -- on a spiritual foundation, we will discover that the love and intelligence of God are a sure guide to building an even stronger family.