“Above everything else, I desire for my children to walk in truth, to know God as He has revealed Himself to us. I want them to be established in their faith and not swayed by every wind of doctrine or the philosophies of men. I pray for this daily!” a young mother exclaimed. It was obvious by the intensity of her tone, she was earnest.
We can thoughtfully and intentionally point our children toward God. There are spiritual habits, in addition to praying with our children, that will lift their thoughts to their heavenly Father, helping them to know about Him and eventually leading them to know Him in relationship.
Begin by looking at the ways God has thoughtfully and purposefully revealed Himself to us. He first revealed Himself through His creation, but God has also disclosed Himself to us through His Word. Scripture makes known His attributes, His power, His nature, His works, and His relationship with man. Finally, He reveals Himself to us through Jesus, His Son.
Follow God’s lead
We can use these same methods of revelation to point our children to God. Start during infancy to acquaint your children with the marvel of creation.
“Oh, Momma! God has painted a Monet sunset,” my young daughter exclaimed one day as we drove west to go home. Color stretched across the horizon in blues and pinks and purples, just like an Impressionistic painting. Her thoughts were drawn to God by His creation.
After becoming an adult, this same daughter told me that she used to sneak out of the house at night. With one raised eyebrow, I replied, “Oh?”
“Yes, “I would spread out our old picnic blanket in the field by the house and lie on my back to look at the stars. And don’t worry. Romeo would always stand guard as long as I stayed out.” Romeo was our outdoor cat.
These examples illustrate a child’s innate sense of wonder and awe of nature. God’s creation speaks of His character and helps us to know we are part of something much greater than ourselves. (Romans 1:20, Psalm 8, and Psalm 19)
Help your children understand the marvel of creation through a habit of nature study. With these three simple steps, nature study can become a spiritual habit.
First, foster their curiosity. Young children especially, but older children and young adults too, will respond to our interest. As we express our wonder at details in nature and work with them to find the answers to their questions, we awaken their curiosity. Lectures don’t foster curiosity, but a sense of awe expressed at the right moment will. “One generation shall praise Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts.” (Psalm 145:4)
Allow your children time to explore outdoors. Let them discover God’s attention to detail, His creativity, and imagination for themselves. You don’t always have to draw their attention to items of interest.
Form the skill of observation
The second simple step in the spiritual habit of nature study is to guide your children in the skill of observation. If your children are not accustomed to being outdoors, give them time to acclimate and start using their senses to make discoveries. If they appear to be bored when first going out, have them explore for a short time and then return to tell you about what they have seen. As they grow in maturity, expect more detail from them. Ask questions. What kind of tree? Was it short, tall, bushy, slender? Did it have leaves or needles?
Illustration is the fullest expression of observation. To illustrate with paint or sketching pencil, one is required to look for detail. Give your children a journal with paper appropriate for painting, and encourage them to keep it as a Nature Journal with illustrations and the date and location of each wonder sketched or painted.
Play a “Who made it?” game and discuss the design and thought put into everything they see, whether it was created by God or made by man.
Thirdly, familiarize your children with the names of each nature item explored and discovered. Answer their questions, and if you don’t know what something is, look it up with them. “I don’t know, let’s look it up,” is an excellent answer.
Together, look up the common and Latin names of each item they illustrate, and instruct your children to label it in their journals. Adam was instructed to name all the creatures God had made. Knowing its name helps us to see the value in each creation.
“…people are unlikely to value what they cannot name. ‘One of my students told me that every time she learns the name of a plant, she feels as if she is meeting someone new. Giving a name to something is a way of knowing it.’”¹
Encourage your child to research his discoveries in nature. Let him find out about the life-cycle of a butterfly or the longevity of a fly. The more details he learns about nature, the more he will wonder at the creative power of God. He will begin to see that all of creation points to God.
¹Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods, (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC), 41.