Making believe is at the core of our family policy. From the time the children were toddlers, we’ve encouraged their imaginations. We believe that a healthy imagination leads to a sense of curiosity, curiosity to a search for knowledge, and knowledge to a life of faith.
But it all starts by making beliefs.
The children, for instance, believe that three-foot layer of debris in their room, with a path from the door to their beds, is an example of a clean room. My husband and I choose to believe that our children have recreated the parting of the Red Sea, with a wall of toys on their right and on their left, and a path of dry ground in between.
Some might say that it sounds more like denial than the Red Sea, but it works for us.
We also choose to believe that the five-foot tall pile of laundry in the corner is a model of the Tower of Babel, which the children have been inspired to build to better visualize their Sunday School lessons. Lord knows that they are scattered all over the earth, and we can’t understand a single word that they say, so I guess it works for them too.
Before society became enraptured with the power of self, it was commonly taught that we should strive to become like small children in our faith; to develop the child-like ability to make a belief. We parents learn exactly how absolute a child’s beliefs are the very first time that we try to convince our sweet angels that Brussels sprouts are not, in fact, evil. It can’t be done. Once a child makes up his mind about something, it’s set in stone.
If you want to test this theory, ask the next child that you meet who the strongest man in the world is. He will not say Samson, or Batman, or even the Terminator. He will tell you, unequivocally, that the strongest man to ever have walked the earth is his very own Daddy, and he will be prepared to argue the point into the very dirt. His belief in his Father is so very deep that it cannot possibly be shaken. What awesome role models our children can be.
When our youngest daughter was seven years old, she became convinced that she had the ability to train animals. She was certain that she could teach the cat to do sit on command. After three days of beleaguering the cat to “sit, stay,” it seemed time to break the truth to her, but as luck would have it, the moment I opened my mouth to reason with her, the blessed cat actually sat down.
The following day, she asked me for permission to teach the neighbor’s cow to roll over and play dead. Of course, there was no way I was going to allow her into the pasture by herself to try to reason with a herd of cows. I tried to explain that is not in the nature of cows to perform tricks on demand, and that it might be safer to stick with training cats, but she would have none of it. She looked at me as though I were a particularly slow child, and said, “Mother, all things are possible with enough faith.”
I was stymied. How could I discourage her from believing she could outwit the laws of nature, yet encourage her in her faith? When in doubt, pass the buck. I took her to see the Pastor. I figured that’s what he got paid for.
For his part, he really seemed sympathetic to my situation, nodding sagely as I explained my predicament. He thought deeply for a moment, then took my daughter aside and instructed her to wait until it was dark outside and the cow was sleeping, then tiptoe up to her and give her a big push . . .
I’m not sure how I felt about our spiritual leader teaching my daughter the finer points of cow tipping, but I do know that her little face shone with the confidence in God’s ability to tip a cow, should He be of a mind to do so.
Of course, we’ve taken to locking the doors at night, and had to issue a warning to all the cattle farmers within a three-mile radius of our house, but what an incredibly small price to pay for making a belief in the heart of a child.