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Who Really Raises Our Children?

Rodney Richards | Aug 26, 2016

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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Rodney Richards | Aug 26, 2016

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

I’d like to believe God helps us.

Certainly I’ve had some help from above, looking back on my 66 years and comparing where I was at low times to my circumstances now. My wife and I live comfortably in New Jersey’s suburbia, and that doesn’t come easily for a middle-class bloke like me. I meditate and give thanks every morning and during the day for my good fortune.

At some point we all realize our material condition relative to others, most pointedly when we see extreme want and think or say aloud, “There but for the grace of God go I.” Like so many other fathers and mothers, I really give thanks when it comes to our children, especially when they grow up to become independent, upstanding citizens.

Was it by chance they became thoughtful, productive members of society? Or did God guide our path, and theirs?

The better question might be, looking back, “Did God guide our actions in raising them?” Was it coincidence that they themselves had the strength of inner character as well? Or did the fact that my wife was a teacher and knew the stages of moral development so well effect how we trained them accordingly? Were there difficulties? Sure. Obstacles? Definitely. Disappointments? Of course. But just as in our own lives, when perseverance and patience won out, desirable outcomes appeared in theirs.

If thy daily living becomes difficult, soon thy Lord will bestow upon thee that which shall satisfy thee. Be patient in the time of affliction and trial, endure every difficulty and hardship with dilated heart, attracted spirit and eloquent tongue in remembrance of the Merciful. Verily this is the life of satisfaction, the spiritual existence, heavenly repose, divine benediction and the celestial table! Soon thy Lord will extenuate thy straightened circumstances even in this world. – Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith, p. 375.

My dear wife and I believed our kids were spiritual beings as well as material, and life’s cycle of ups and downs, side paths and straightaways, disasters and crowning achievements tested that theory. Was God there to help?

It depends of course, on whether one believes in divine assistance or solely in one’s own abilities and no others. Certainly in raising our two children, consistency and stability greatly aided the results—and faith played a major role.

Faith sustains us, or should, in times of trials and setbacks. We have faith that things will turn out for the best, that a divine purpose illumines humankind’s mutual life on this planet, and by extension, that each of us has a role to play in making our children’s lives better. We have faith that God wants the best for us:

In the spiritual world the divine bestowals are infinite, for in that realm there is neither separation nor disintegration, which characterize the world of material existence. Spiritual existence is absolute immortality, completeness and unchangeable being. Therefore, we must thank God that He has created for us both material blessings and spiritual bestowals. He has given us material gifts and spiritual graces, outer sight to view the lights of the sun and inner vision by which we may perceive the glory of God. He has designed the outer ear to enjoy the melodies of sound and the inner hearing wherewith we may hear the voice of our Creator. We must strive with energies of heart, soul and mind to develop and manifest the perfections and virtues latent within the realities of the phenomenal world, for the human reality may be compared to a seed. If we sow the seed, a mighty tree appears from it. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 90.

If we believe hope is gone, that all hope has deserted us, then our lives turn truly bleak. But if we believe that sowing a seed can create a mighty tree, we have faith and hope.

Physically and spiritually our union created children, as blessings to our beings. From those seeds mighty trees sprouted and have spread their branches. From the fruit of those branches a granddaughter has been born and brought even more joy, more purpose to our lives. God has given us the joy of knowing that life continues, and that these young ones will fulfill their purpose, the happiness and betterment of all humanity.

Do you think God has had a role to play in your upbringing, or that of your children?

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  • Chris Badostain
    Sep 9, 2016
    Something that is sorely neglected regarding the raising of children is the emotional health of the child component. Parents need to become more conscious of the inner life of their children through practices similar to the Baha'i paradigm of consultation.
  • Melanie Black
    Aug 26, 2016
    Rodney, a lovely essay. I appreciated how you used the writings to expand your theme and make it come alive. You and your wife must indeed feel truly blessed.
    Now that I am older, I look back and wonder why I never married and had children though I wanted to very much. Then I went through about 15 years of intense suffering, until by the grace of God I was brought back into the circle of the protection of the Covenant of Baha'u'llah. After some time I realized that the dark period I went through was truly a mercy to, for it prepared me for what was to come. I am fascinated by all the differing stories that Baha'is and others have told me about their paths through life, and I'm more convinced than ever that loving God, no matter what religion you espouse is the truly transcendent connection that aids us all. Thank you.
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