I’ve never been one who loves routine or one clings to traditions. Yet there is a strange comfort and stability about traditions; they bring a sense of belonging and grounding. Biblical traditions have even more power to instruct our minds, move our hearts and guide our hands. They become the practical outworking of Deuteronomy 6: 4-9:
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
These instructions are not meant to be another burden or a chore to check-off, rather they are meant to be a great joy and comfort to us. A reminder of who God is and the good news in Christ Jesus that we have! Maybe you’re stumped about how to communicate the gospel to kids with cognitive impairments and learning delays. I’d like to suggest that traditions are a wonderful tool.
We’ve discovered great joy in creating our own traditions as a family, many that point us to Jesus while we are in the thick of things. Kids with special needs stand to benefit hugely (along with the rest of the family) from Christ-centered traditions. Our son is non-verbal and has cerebral palsy, yet his whole body exudes excitement and his eyes widen as he anticipates some of these treasured times in our homes.
We don’t have to come up with elaborate or fancy schemes, just simple consistent traditions based on God’s Word. Here are some ideas:
Remember together. One of the key themes of the Old Testament is the people of Israel losing their security because they forgot. Forgot the provision God promised them, forgot their promises to be faithful to Him and to trust in Him alone. Despair and destruction were always the result of that forgetting. We need to remind ourselves daily of who God is, what He promises in Christ Jesus and what that means for our lives. Share specific ways God has provided for your family (our kids love this part!). Recite the specific promises God has given us in Christ Jesus. Most nights end with us whispering into our son’s ear, “He will make all things new!” (Rev. 21:5) as we look forward to the day when his body and mind will no longer be affected by his disability.
Pray together. God is a refuge but in order to obtain the benefits of His protection and care, we need to go to Him. How will we feel His care and nearness when we never come near to Him in prayer? Let your child experience Him as a refuge, pray together as a family daily. Don’t let a lack of speech or a cognitive ability keep a little one from the knees of Jesus. Our son can’t speak or move his hands so we fold his little hands for him and usher him to the feet of Jesus. Disability is never an impediment for the gospel, it is all the more reason for the gospel to real and valued in our lives.
Sing together. I cannot count the amount of doctor visits I’ve left with a heavy heart. I’d fight back tears while loading up our kids for the ride home. Before leaving the parking lot I’d start one of our scripture CD’s and before long the whole gang would be singing truth that bore it’s way right to my heart. My emotions would be lifted as I sang the Word, praising God for who He was and finding comfort in Him. Of course my kids loved to belt out the songs and Calvin joined in with an occasional squeal or kick of the legs. We need to give our family regular expressions of praise and joy, this is how God encourages us!
These are just three small examples of traditions in our family. What are some of yours? Don’t miss out on the wonderful blessings we can give our kids (and ourselves) by observing simple biblical traditions. If you’ve never had any traditions, just start with one simple idea and try to do it daily. See what good God has in store!
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ruth stieff says
Thank you for sharing very doable and simple ways. Sometimes I’m overwhelmed by elaborate ideas about establishing family traditions. Your examples are so encouraging as they encourage all of us to not give up but find ways that “fit us.” Thanks again.
Laurie Wallin says
Good reminder and encouragement, Kara. We shouldn’t be afraid or exhausted by traditions in our special families. I think one of the best ways I discovered to have traditions is simply to make bedtime a tradition. Or getting to school a tradition. To have God be part of our days in small, constant ways so that our family glue holds us all strong in the crazy seasons.