Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Touching the Palate

I just entered, for the third time, the "introducing solid foods" stage. That is, if you call rice cereal "solid". "Mushy" comes more readily to my mind. Anyway, we all watched excitedly as Little Man took a tentative taste, looked right at me and flashed his signature grin. Even though it is my third time to go through this, I still thrill at each new stage. This time, however, a Scripture came to mind--the famous parenting verse, "Train up a child in the way he should go..." I heard it explained that the verb train is the word picture of "touching the palate". As more cereal dribbled on Little Man's bib than into his tummy, I thought of the similarities between feeding babies and training children in the Word of God.

  • Start small. While Crown Prince can down 3 bowls of baked oatmeal at breakfast time, I did not attempt to give Little Man that much or that heavy of a food. For his first feeding, I gave him a small amount of rice cereal, thinned with a lot of water. In the same way, we can not sit our small children down and instruct them on the finer points of theology, but we can give them little glimpses often.
  • Keep trying. Babies do spit out more than they ingest at first, but we realize that they are learning the process of eating and do not worry. Our children must learn the process of how to study God's Word and apply it to their lives. That means, in the early years, not a lot is going to "stick". However, just as I don't give up after the first feeding and decide to keep Little Man on a liquid diet indefinitely, I must keep trying to teach the Word of God to my little ones.
  • Gradually increase. For those of you who have seen Little Man's chubby cheeks (yes, I need to update his photo), you won't be surprised that he began eating larger amounts in a relatively short amount of time. As we teach our children, we must be attentive to give them deeper truths as they are ready. This can be difficult to determine, but God will give us wisdom.
  • Feed gently and don't force. When I feed my baby, I can't stuff a large amount in his mouth. He will choke or at the very least, be upset and refuse to eat more. When my children aren't "eating" God's Word in the amounts or as quickly as I would like, I must remember not to force it upon them or I may cause them to reject further truth.
  • Know when to quit. You know the cues when a baby is done eating. They will turn their head, close their mouth or fuss when you try to feed them more. You are probably also aware of the cues when your child is done listening to your instruction. You wax eloquent about egalitarianism vs. complementarianism (yeah, my kids' mama reads John Piper!) and they begin jumping on the couch. You talk about being nice to brother and sister (a little more on the level of a 3-year-old) and they choose that moment to wallop him/her up the side of the head. Sometimes we need to stop talking and do more acting. (This is a big one for me!)
  • No two kids are alike. You know how one of your kids will eat a ton and another will eat "daintily". The same is true for receiving the truth. Some kids just drink it in while others need small sips.
  • Kids' needs constantly change. It amazes me to watch my kids' eating patterns. One day they are cleaning out the serving bowl and another day that are picking at their food. We are not clean-platers (more about that in a future post) either in physical or spiritual food. A child knows when he has his needs met. This does not apply, of course, when your child says as mine have been known to do, "Mom, I'm full with food. Can I have candy now?" We also need to make sure they aren't too full with spiritual "junk food" so that they can't eat what we serve them.
  • Respond correctly to rejection. It took my older son about 7 tries over time to learn to like bananas. I mean baby food bananas that every child loves! Now he eats them in their whole form like they will be extinct the next day. I just had to keep trying when he would reject the food at first. That's what we must do when we teach our children a spiritual concept that doesn't "stick". Wait, then give it again, as often as necessary.
  • Know what is important and what is not. After so many times of trying to feed a food, I have had to admit that maybe my child just does not like a food and stop giving it to them. Incidentally, my daughter does not like french fries (this causes extra pounds on Mom who feels the obligation to finish her child's food) and my son does not like any sauce on his broccoli (this produces a gagging effect that we definitely want to avoid in the future!). So far, going with their preferences is a good thing! Spritually, we must make sure they develop Biblical teachings, but some things aren't worth fighting over. These things look different in each family, and we must not neglect Biblical principles. You parents of teenagers probably have more experience in this area. An example from my own life is music. My mom doesn't listen to music and my dad listens to instrumental and choral music. They decided to allow me to develop my own convictions in this area as long as my choices were God-honoring. My taste is still developing, but I am glad that they didn't "force-feed" according to their taste.
  • Anticipate the day when more goes in than comes out. My oldest is almost 7 years old, and I am just beginning to see her spiritual understanding awaken a bit. I have seen some of the teachings I have given over and over begin to take root in her life. A child's understanding is most evident when they don't know we are watching. I'm often amazed at the conversations my two oldest children have while playing when they don't know I'm listening.
I am learning and gaining new experiences in training my children and there's a lot I don't know, but I do know that God's Word won't return void. I also know that their very life depends on the food I give them--physically and spiritually.

What are some ways you make sure your children are "fed" spiritually?


  1. I really enjoyed this post. Raising my little ones in a different culture, I have to be careful that the younger ones don't starve! Much of the teaching we do is in a language that they do not know yet, so we have to make sure they hear it in English at home.

    Line upon line...precept upon precept...a little spoonful here, a little spoonful there. :o)

  2. Keep up the good work, Tammy! I'm rooting for you.