Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Obedience part 2, and a philosophical exploration on the nature of virtue.

What a great class today! It was a last minute call, it being so close to Christmas and all, but goodness am I glad we met. I love these kids more every week. And watching them gradually start to own this beautiful, amazing, inspiring Faith? Such a gift.

Teaching classes on spiritual qualities (virtues) each week means I have to grapple with their application in my own life if I'm going to have any chance of then translating them for the slightly shorter population. Often I end up feeling like I have less of a handle on the virtue than when we started, but I've come to realize this is actually a good sign. Thinking you have a handle on a spiritual quality? Why not just scream, 'Test me now, God!' Knowing you're one step ahead of clueless? A much safer position.

In thinking about obedience, I kept coming back to Baha'u'llah's words: "Observe My commandments, for the love of My beauty." Any parent can testify to the complete futility of trying to coerce your child into doing something they DO NOT want to do. It's hopeless. Without resorting to means we are not proud of. And so I've come to the conclusion that spiritually educating our children boils down to somehow nurturing their own love of God/the Manifestations so that they WANT to obey. Ultimately, we obey because we love. Because we trust that God knows us better than we know ourselves. Loves us better than we love ourselves. And that His (Her) vision of reality encompasses the entire truth and not just our limited and skewed perception of it. Besides, when you love someone so much, is there anything better than pleasing them?

I am certainly not saying I achieve this in our weekly children's class, or even that it is achievable in such an environment. After all, developing a lasting and meaningful relationship with anyone, let alone a Manifestation of God, takes time, dedication, WORK, commitment. I'm just saying that this is what I strive for each week; to create a space in which these children can develop a relationship with their Creator and fall in love a little more each time. Now this seems like a pretty abstract and lofty goal, but for the 3-6 year-old crowd, it boils down to this:

1. Prayer: If you want a relationship to work, you sort of have to talk to each other.
2. Stories: We have been given the most precious gift of Abdu'l-Baha whose life is a perfect example for our own lives. Not only do we learn how to be kind, generous, joyful, patient, etc. through his example, but Abdu'l-Baha is the bridge between us and Baha'u'llah. Getting to know one, brings us that much closer to getting to know the Other.
3. And practicing virtues. Virtues are what animate our every interaction. They are the language of the spirit. When children learn early on to function primarily from their spiritual nature, their default language becomes the language of virtue.

And what a different world we will live in one day when our daily interactions with each other are characterized by love, kindness, justice, compassion, generosity, patience, compassion...

and obedience! To practice following directions this week, we went on a pictorial treasure hunt. I had taken close-up photos of different landmarks around Fellowship House and hidden them at each location. The children received the first picture in the mailbox, and had to consult about where they thought it was. It was just tricky enough that they had to really think and listen to each other.  

Receiving the first picture

Finding the next clue

Searching along the stone wall

Huddling up

Talking it through with Lucie. She figured it out, and called everyone back to point them in the right direction. Love it when the youngers lead the olders. 

Taking turns opening each clue. 

I found it!

The reward: strawberry banana muffins. Jonah declared, "This is the best class EVER!"  

And isn't that what happens in life too? When we obey the laws of God, we are rewarded with blessings and sweetness.

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