I was in fourth grade when my family moved from Iowa to Colorado. That first summer, we were thrilled as we all packed into the station wagon and drove up to Rocky Mountain National Park for our first mountain camping trip. Everything was beautiful, and we had great fun together setting up camp, cooking aluminum foil dinners, and exploring the vibrant landscape. But we were from Iowa, and we’d overlooked one important fact about mountain camping.
It doesn’t matter how sunny, warm, and pleasant the summer day is; at night, due to the high elevation, it becomes freezing.
I remember shivering, shaking, chattering next to my sister in our pup tent. We were both in slumber-party quality Strawberry Shortcake sleeping bags — and the air surrounding us had become sub-zero. The soil layers below us was oozing cold up, permeating right to our bones. Eventually we found the courage to hurry into my parents’ tent. They too — and our two-year-old brother — were awake, freezing, goose-pimpled, and near tears. This was coldness to an insane degree! My dad ended up zipping all the sleeping bags together so we could snuggle as a family underneath, trapping body-heat inside to keep us from turning into popsicles.
That’s how we learned that people in Colorado usually take real sleeping bags on camping trips — the insulated type that look like cocoons.
I was reminded of this story a few weeks ago while writing a Bible study on Christian parenting. The world outside is cold, frigid, permeating. And we must do more than provide the average, typical, normal, insulation of taking our kids to church and praying before bed. We must cocoon them in sacredness.
Leviticus 23 is just one of many snapshots in Scripture that describe the rituals and routines of Old Testament Jewish culture. What would it have been like to be a child growing up in a family that observed all these sacred festivals throughout the year? What role would these habits and routines play in spiritual formation? What would these ways of celebrating God together, of recognizing sacred spaces and times, imprint upon a child’s heart?
I’m a firm believer in the value Christian sacred times, spaces, and celebrations in the lives of children. We can wrap them up in both joyous and somber traditions — whether they’re nightly hymns and Scriptures or annual Advent candle-lighting — that allow our kids to experience sacredness. Holiness. Set-apartness.
The world is a cold one. The answer is not to keep our children from it — isolationism is not the type of cocooning I’m referring to. The answer instead is to ready our children to be in the world, to enjoy its beauty, to make friends, to be a light, to delight in God’s good presence around us all. Here I’ll share some of my thoughts on the spiritual value of family traditions, Christian holidays (“holy days”), and other creative faith-builders for families. Will you join me in the discussion?