On Sunday mornings, Bean and Gracie go to their own nurseries while Chris and I go to “big church.” Up until Gracie was five or six months old, we brought her to church with us because I was nervous about leaving her with the nursery girls. She was just so tiny! But since then, she’s been in the nursery on Sundays. We’ve brought Bean to “big church” on special occasions before, like holidays or when we have family visiting with us at church or if the choir was doing a major performance. Anything that we thought would keep his attention. But, for the most part, the kids are in the nursery.
Today, though, our church served Communion and so right before they started that part of the service, I slipped out and went to get Bean from the nursery. Chris and I have talked before about how we thought he was old enough to start receiving Communion with us and today just seemed like the right time to start.
At our church, Communion is given once a month and everyone is invited to attend. Growing up, I remember my parents letting me have Communion from as early as I can remember. As a Christian, it is a very important symbolic act to me. It makes me feel connected to God through his son’s sacrifice and, while I want Bean to come into a relationship with God on his own terms and in his own heart, I want to give him the opportunity to feel at home and comfortable in the church by showing him the customs and traditions we practice. That was how it was in my family. Religion was never forced on me. It wasn’t a requirement. It was just an environment that my parents continually exposed me to so that I came to feel comfortable and at home in the church. Years later, in college, when I began to simultaneously grow in my faith and question my faith, I could go through those thoughts and struggles within the context of a place that I felt comfortable and safe in. As a parent, I think that’s the best we can do for our children. I want Bean to know that Christ and the church are where I find my strength, and I want him to see the importance of that in my life. But then I want him to make that commitment to faith for himself.
I pray every single day that both my children make that commitment for themselves.
We haven’t really done too much up to this point to introduce God and Christ to Bean. We sing the blessing before we eat, we say prayers together at night, we watch Veggie Tales, and occasionally we talk about Bible stories.
Actually, when I write it out, I guess that’s not too bad. But what we haven’t really gotten into with him is the Christian doctrine (to the extent that you could do that with a two-and-a-half year old). We haven’t really talked about what we believe. I just don’t feel like Bean can understand the abstract ideas of religion yet. So, instead, we focus on things that he CAN understand.
Communion this morning was a perfect example. When I brought Bean into the “big church,” we stood in the narthex while the minister prayed over the bread and grape juice. While he prayed, I held Bean and whispered in his ear what was happening. I said things like, “Do you see that man in the robe? That is one of God’s best friends and he is going to give us a snack today.” I told him that the snack was a gift from God because “God loves Michael.”
I told Bean what it was he would be eating – bread and juice – because I wanted him to know what would happen when we went up front. Then I pointed to the Communion rail (where we kneel in our church to receive the Sacrament) and told him that we were going to go up front there to the rail and then we would sing our blessing before we had our snack. When Bean understood what we were going to do, we went to the pew and sat down until our row was able to go up front. He does better in situations when he knows what’s going on and what he is supposed to do next.
When we got up to the Communion rail, I knelt and Bean stood in front of me with my arms around him. I held my hands out for the bread in front of Bean and he copied me. When our minister came along (who, by the way, is one of the sweetest men I have ever met), he put bread in my hands and then a little piece in Bean’s. I whispered into Bean’s ear while we waited for the juice to come down the rail, “This is our snack that God is giving us because God loves Michael and God loves mommy.”
“And God loves Daddy and God loves Gracie,” Bean whispered back.
“Exactly!” I whispered.
When the juice came, Bean was super excited when I gave him his own little cup, but I told him we had to sing our blessing first. Normally, before I take Communion, I pray a prayer of thanksgiving for the gift of his son and for his presence in my life. For Bean, that equates to a blessing. So, that’s what we did. Very quietly, Bean and I sang our family blessing right there at the Communion rail. Then, we both took Communion together.
When we stood up from the rail to go back to our pew, Bean happily wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and then announced very loudly to me, “Mommy, I want more snack!”
I’m sure I turned three shades of red in front of the laughing congregation, but inside I was praying, “Dear Lord, please keep his heart hungry for you.”