For a while now I have been thinking about this post. How is it that we bring the scriptures to our littlest? I was delving into the world of homeschooling this year in a slightly unusual way, given the pandemic, but had read about simply reading the Bible through with your children and a friend recommended The Word of Promise Audio Bible which we got. All was well in early Genesis with a beautifully brought-to-life creation of the world, but as soon as we got to Cain and Abel and the start of some of the darker old testament stories I had to stop. My four-year-old daughter was crying, my six-year-old was staring at me with his jaw open. The dramatization was very good. I will admit, even as an adult, the stories are very hard to hear and many of us struggle to reconcile the one God present in the old testament and the New testament while still believing in our hearts that God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.
Many Different Approaches
So even though I am almost never on social media, thanks to a recognition that it was not spiritually fruitful for me, I reached out to a few of the Orthodox moms groups that I have remained connected with and got lots of people’s different practices. Let me just say that I am impressed. And also slightly overwhelmed.
Although I have recognized that I need to set simple goals for myself as I shared in the last blog post No Agenda but Love, I also am hoping to become more familiarized this year with the Bible myself. Some people say that the Orthodox faith is not as focused on scripture as newer Protestant groups and, while this may be outwardly true, there is no question that the scriptures are the bedrock of our faith and something that we are all called to read and reread and ponder in our hearts. I have read the gospels multiple times, although perhaps really only in the last few years from start to finish. And I know many of the classic old testament stories. There are so many of them that have been wonderfully brought to life in different children’s books (we love the Arch books series). But a big picture overview of the old testament or even of the many other books of the New testament I feel ill aquainted with.
My Ideal Strategy
Of different families’ practices, the idea that most inspired me, presented by several moms, was the idea of doing the church’s prescribed daily readings with children. The readings are easy enough to access and, if we are able to simultaneously translate them to the appropriate age level, can provide beautiful daily instruction. Someone also recommended to me Saint Theophan the Recluse’s Thoughts for Each Day of the Year which I have begun to use on my own. In an ideal world, I think I would like to read the daily readings and St. Theophan’s commentary during my private morning prayer time and then have it in my mind to present to my children over dinner as we did with the wonderful stories of Advent from Welcoming the Christ Child. But my truth is that I am only 3 weeks away from anticipating the birth of a new child, am still working as a physician and am attempting to homeschool in part. I know you have your own reality and I know it’s so important to just start wherever we’re at. So, by God’s grace, I’ve been doing just that.
What We are Trying for Now
I found a copy of a Children’s Bible that has readings for 365 days of the year that my church had six or seven copies of and each evening I’ve been reading four or five days worth of readings at the urging of my kids (only one to two pages).
When that runs out part way through the year I will see where I’m at. Perhaps I will try another version of a Children’s Bible. Many recommended the Children’s Action Bible which has very engaging drawings. Perhaps I will be up for trying the daily readings.
Whatever version you choose, it is still a challenge. A few days ago we read the final punishment that God sends to the Egyptians and I couldn’t quite bring myself to read all the lines and fully allow my children to understand that the firstborn of each of the Egyptian family died. I tried very hard to discuss that the pharaoh had been killing the boys of the Israelite families (such as we read with Moses) and that God was trying over and over again to show the pharaoh he needed to let the Egyptian people go. But the look in my children’s eyes as they started to imagine that the babies might be killed and my six-year-old saying “I bet God didn’t really kill them” made me skip over a few paragraphs till the Egyptians were begging the Israelites to leave. There are hard lessons in the Bible and hard truths. We read recently about Moses killing the Egyptian who was beating another Israelite and then burying him in the ground. My kids were shocked. Or about the many serious crimes that King David was part of. Even very holy people can be part of very unholy Acts. It’s an important truth and a hard one.
But all this to say that we are reading the bible. It’s not perfect. But my kids are so excited to read Bible stories before bed and my faith allows me to know that the word of God and His grace are being transmitted through the text even when I can’t fully comprehend it.
Always Working to Understand the Scriptures More Ourselves
I am working slowly and surely through trying to understand the Bible more myself through podcasts like Daily Orthodox Scriptures and Search the Scriptures, watching YouTube clips that help to contextualize certain books of the Bible (I love the Bible Project videos for example on 2 Peter), and trying to read the reading of the day and St Theophan’s commentaries as much as I am able. In truth the study of scriptures is to be lifelong. I work to forgive myself for what I am not able to do. No agenda but love. Knowing that loving my children, loving others and showing and embodying love will do more to bring the Kingdom of heaven into our home than scripted Bible study. And also knowing that scripted Bible study must come in whatever way shape or form it can take into our lives. So this is a first go. May God bless all our efforts! I will keep you all posted!
With love in Christ,