Pin It
Monday, January 17th, 2011

In the Bleak MidWinter: Teaching Our Children Spiritual Survival Skills

By
Paul Maguire - Fotolia.com

In the bleak midwinter, frost wind made moan,
earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow…

 

Christmas has passed, but I can’t get these lines from Christina Rossetti’s poem out of my mind. The poem, which celebrates the spiritual renewal symbolized by the birth of Jesus in the middle of winter, was put to music by modern composer Gutav Holst early in the last century and is now a well-known Christmas carol that was featured on many of the radio programs I listened to during the holiday season.

I don’t have to look much beyond my own driveway, a devastation of frozen ice and snow, to know why Rosetti’s lines have stayed with me. Whatever religious tradition we follow, this time of year can give fresh meaning to the word “anti-climax” and leave us impatient for the appearance of the first crocus.

 

Bears hole up in these winter months, hibernate, tune out until more hospitable days arrive. I sometimes feel I would like to follow their example and hide out until the better weather comes. And if I, as an adult, struggle with the bleak midwinter, how can a child be expected to respond?

 

The bleak midwinter months test our patience, but for our children, as for ourselves, the season offers opportunities for growth. Nature may be sleeping, but the human soul is not. The dynamic process of spiritual growth is unstoppable. And it is what we, in the Baha’i Faith, call “tests and difficulties” – whether in the form of a bleak midwinter landscape, a huge pile of homework, or an unkind classmate — that enable us to cultivate the detachment we need to see the events of our lives from a spiritual perspective.

 

Our children need to learn how to face hardship in order to appreciate ease, to embrace sorrow in order to savor happiness, to face loss in order to learn how to hold close what they love. As a parent, I brace myself to teach the cold lessons of this bleak season to my daughter so she can become stronger in facing the tests and difficulties that will foster her growth.

 

I remind myself that to model for my daughter attitudes of fortitude, patience, and what Abdu’l-Baha* called “radiant acquiescence” in facing the bleakness of an inner landscape populated by a difficult colleague or a neglectful friend is to give her the one of the greatest gifts I, as her parent, can offer: spiritual survival skills.

And my daughter will not be the first to venture across this bleak midwinter landscape. It has been traversed by many who have gone before her, including the prophets of God, who in facing their own tests forged a renewed intimacy with the Creator by whom each of them was chosen to fulfill His difficult mission on earth.

 

In was in the bleak midwinter – January 12th, 1853 – that Baha’u’llah, the Prophet who founded the Baha’i Faith, was banished from his homeland, Persia, and forced to cross the inhospitable snow-covered mountains of western Iran, arriving at last, in spring, in a pleasant valley waving with orange trees, near the Iraqi border town of Khanaqin.

 

As a Baha’i parent, I plan to take the opportunity offered by this snow-laden season to blaze a fresh trail for my daughter, one that leads away from the easy plains of our fast-food, instant gratification culture and towards the high mountains. The peaks may be difficult to scale, but will be joyfully won.

 

As I look out the window at my frozen driveway, I remind myself to embrace the bleak midwinter with enthusiasm, for in so doing, I teach my daughter to see the pattern in spiritual life. After winter, comes spring. After hardship, comes ease. With
tests and difficulties, comes spiritual growth.

 

“Tests are benefits from God…they are sent to us by the Divine Mercy for our own perfecting….The plant most pruned by the gardeners is the one which, when the summer comes, will have the most beautiful blossoms and the most abundant fruit.” (Abdul-Baha, Paris Talks, pp. 50-51)

 

*Abdu’l-Baha (1844-1921) was the son of Baha’u’llah, the prophet-founder of the Baha’i Faith.

 

© 2011 – 2012, Sandra Lynn Hutchison. All rights reserved.

More Great Stuff You'll Love:


How My Chinese Mother-in-Law Replaced my Husband

And why this is the number one fight in our household

The African Guide to Co-sleeping

10 must-read tips on co-sleeping from Africa

How I Reclaimed My House from My Mother-in-Law

A whole year of arguing in the making

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Sandra Lynn Hutchison is the author of two books: a book of poetry, The Art of Nesting (GR Books, Oxford: England, 2008) and a memoir about living in China in the prelude to the Tiananmen incident, Chinese Brushstrokes (Turnstone Press, Winnipeg, 1996). Her poetry, stories, essays, and reviews have appeared in a wide variety of publications, including the Oxford anthology of stories about China, Chinese Ink, Western Pen (Oxford University Press, 2000). She serves as poetry editor for Puckerbrush Review. She lives with her husband and daughter in Orono, Maine, where she teaches English Literature and Creative Writing. They are raising their daughter Baha'i.

Leave us a comment!

1 Comment
  1. CommentsSatirah   |  Tuesday, 18 January 2011 at 4:01 pm

    A wonderfully written article with advice that can get us all through the “bleak midwinter.”









Notify me of follow-up comments via e-mail.
Or leave your email address and click here to receive email notifications of new comments without leaving a comment yourself.

Get weekly updates right in your inbox so you don't miss out!




Huge Giveaway for Eid: Tea Collection, Little Passports, Little Pim, Dolls, Books, Music & More

Win almost $300 in prizes from awesome globally-inspired children's products.

5 Smoothies Your Kids Will Love

Healthy smoothies for summer your kids will like.

3 Beautiful Children’s Books That Take Place in the Himalayas

Beautiful children's stories from Nepal to Tibet

Why African Toddlers Don't Have Tantrums

The secret of why African babies don't meltdown like Western ones.

How I Made My Forgotten Native Language My Child’s Strongest

I started off by speaking dodgy Cantonese. No word for remote control? No problem! ‘Pressy thingy.’

Help Us Giveaway a Soccer Ball to Kids in Ethiopia!

Let's donate a ball to kids who need it in Ethiopia. Here's how you can help!

Tanabata Festival: July 7

A beautiful Japanese summer festival

Homemade Art Books for Ramadan

A simple homemade gift for kids
Hola! We are in a small city called Clermont-Fd. in France. We have been visiting museums and attending reading classes for toddlers. During the summer French like organizing aperos all the time to ...
From Huge Giveaway for Eid: Tea Collection, Little Passports, Little Pim, Dolls, Books, Music & More
We are in Germany, and our kids are still in school (kindergarten)! Our fun begins in Augus...
From Huge Giveaway for Eid: Tea Collection, Little Passports, Little Pim, Dolls, Books, Music & More
central florida! we are going camping on the gulf of mexico..hot yes but beautifu...
From Huge Giveaway for Eid: Tea Collection, Little Passports, Little Pim, Dolls, Books, Music & More
Tweeted here https://twitter.com/mdmaurer/status/4921378144739819...
From Huge Giveaway for Eid: Tea Collection, Little Passports, Little Pim, Dolls, Books, Music & More
Shared it on my FB page "raisingTCKs" here https://www.facebook.com/pages/Raising-TCKs/203117103077008?ref_type=bookma...
From Huge Giveaway for Eid: Tea Collection, Little Passports, Little Pim, Dolls, Books, Music & More
I'm from the US, married to a German TCK - we are living in Taiwan. This summer's fun was staying in Taiwan and enjoying the beach, the mountain streams and anything that helped to get us outsid...
From Huge Giveaway for Eid: Tea Collection, Little Passports, Little Pim, Dolls, Books, Music & More
American- Bolivian couple, live in Virginia. Just enjoying Summer with late nights, lightning bugs, lots of insects and fun while gardenin...
From Huge Giveaway for Eid: Tea Collection, Little Passports, Little Pim, Dolls, Books, Music & More
Were in Marrakech.....most of the time! Were going camping this month. The kids can't wait to go fishin...
From Huge Giveaway for Eid: Tea Collection, Little Passports, Little Pim, Dolls, Books, Music & More

More The Religious Life of Children