By Tina Olesen
In my last post, I proposed that rather than fleeing from reality into meditation, mindfulness or yoga, we ought to help our students learn to deal with life as it is. How do we do that?
Children hear about the things that are going on in the world, no doubt. For many of them, it does cause anxiety.
I was on yard duty in the back field of a North Delta school the morning of the 9-11 attacks. Overhead the massive outlines of planes filled the sky, eerily flying in low as they headed for an untimely landing at YVR.
I instinctively sent up a prayer and turned my attention to the children, who didn’t even seem to notice what was taking place. Over the next few days, I answered their questions as honestly as I could. We carried on with routines, lessons, activities… and though at first it seemed as if life as we knew it would never be the same, things pretty much returned to normal.
What I didn’t know at the time was that Vancouver would soon be the birthplace of a mindfulness program for kids: MindUP, the brainchild of actress Goldie Hawn, who says she wanted to help children cope with the stress of life post 9-11. She worked with psychologists at UBC and piloted her program in Vancouver schools.
Had we been allowed to pray with our students in the aftermath of 9-11, would there even have been a market for such a program?
Here’s where the double standard lies. Christian prayer is banned from public schools, while Buddhist meditative practice and Hindu yoga is welcomed in.
People often instinctively gather to pray in the face of overwhelming grief or anxiety. It is a knee jerk response for many of us. Deep inside, we know that there’s nowhere else to turn but to God.
In the Buddhist worldview, however, there is no God to turn to. Reality is merely an illusion.
In the Christian worldview, reality is created by God. God is sovereign over it and in control of it. Even when everything seems to be out of control, the truth is that God is still in charge. Not only is He in charge, but He is a loving, personal Being who answers our prayers. That’s why prayer makes sense.
People tend to give up on prayer when God doesn’t seem to hear us, or He doesn’t answer the way we want Him to. If God doesn’t behave the way we think He should behave, we despair or rebel.
This shows a lack of humility – we think we know better than God.
True prayer requires an attitude of humility before God. At this time of year especially, I am reminded of the humble attitude of Mary, the mother of Jesus, who responded to the angel Gabriel’s announcement of her pregnancy with, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.”
How can our thinking about reality line up with the truth? The Bible tells us in Romans:
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
As we humble ourselves and, like Mary, give ourselves wholly to God for His purposes, we are given an understanding of who God is and what He is doing: we begin to see reality as created by God.
We have to be continually adjusted to this reality, because as sinful creatures, we have a tendency to think we can be like God, knowing good from evil.
This is the cause of our anxiety. When we forget who God is and think it is all up to us, we worry. That’s why Jesus continually warned His followers not to be anxious. Philippians 4:4-8 says:
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
There are a couple of bad habits of thought that cause anxiety:
- Speculating about the future. We are limited creatures. Jesus said, “…Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
- Worrying about what other people think about us. The Bible exhorts us not to fear man, but rather to fear (awe and reverence) God.
If we find ourselves speculating or worrying, we can turn in repentance to God and ask His forgiveness, and ask Him to help us think rightly.
Children can learn to pray to the Father through Jesus Christ from a very young age. This will save them a lot of unnecessary anxiety.