When I read articles emphasizing the vulnerability of children facing so many challenges in the world today, it hits me as a call for help. I feel compelled to respond with something that has the power and influence to help mitigate the shock that tends to immobilize right activity, and enables me to think more constructively about the world’s children. In my experience, I’ve found this to be prayer.
For many years I worked in an intensive language school for refugees and migrants who had newly arrived in my country. Children came sometimes having fled war-torn homelands, perhaps with family members but often without parents. Once, on an overnight school excursion, a young boy looked at my bag and said, “That is how we used to live all the time” – ready to run for their lives if needed, with few belongings. My role was to help these children in their paths forward by teaching them English.
During that time and since then, I have found that recognizing God’s untiring love and blessing for His, Her, children deepens our love for, and strengthens our efforts to help, those around us who are suffering. I persistently pray to see qualities such as trust, selflessness, and joy as coming from God – who created each of us (see Genesis 1:26, 27) – and therefore inherent in each child, no matter what his or her background. And these students I worked with often responded, expressing these qualities to a remarkable degree as they started their new lives. I saw that all children are capable of feeling and responding to Christly love.
Turning to God in prayer deepens my awareness that God is the supreme Father-Mother to all children wherever they are. In “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Monitor, identified Father and Mother as names for God (see pp. 586 and 592). Coupling these definitions with the First Commandment – “You must not have any other god but me” (Exodus 20:3, New Living Translation) – we find that spiritually there is but one supreme Mother and Father, whom Christ Jesus showed to be all-loving, everywhere, and strong.
The spiritual reality is that there is no other Mother than God; there is no other Father than God. Accepting this, we realize that this divine Parent is relentlessly fathering and mothering each of His children, who are not defined materially, but are God’s spiritual offspring.
One time, when people brought little children to Jesus, the disciples were going to send them away (see Mark 10:13-16). But Jesus reprimanded this attitude and brought the children into his embrace: “He took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.” We could see this Christly gesture as a symbol of the loving embrace of our Father-Mother God. Affirming that this embrace is still happening today and forever can open the door to inspired ideas for caring for children.
Loving children who have been through great trauma is not always easy. They might exhibit very unlovable behaviors, developed in order to cope with sustained challenges. We don’t need to let this dissuade us from our best efforts at praying more deeply to recognize the undamaged innocence that is inherent in everyone because of our true identity as the offspring of the one Father-Mother God, who tenderly cares for us.
It takes persistence. But knowing that our divine Parent cares for each of us helps shift thought from shock and pity and toward inspired action that supports youth justice systems, parents, and constructive school policies.