What Is Contemplative Spirituality and How Can it Help Parenting?
- Amanda Idleman Contributing Writer
- 2021 27 May
If we aren’t careful we can spend so much of our time as parents stuck in survival mode. It is truly a job that never ends! Yet, God calls us to not grow weary in doing good (Galatians 6:9). It is important that we remember that parenting is such important and good work that God calls us to do.
How can we remember that we are doing holy work when we are in the midst of what sometimes feels like chaos in our homes? We invite the Holy Spirit into every part of our days. This allows us to add purpose, joy, meaning, and even strengthens us to serve God throughout our parenting journey.
Contemplative Spirituality is a tool that can help us remain mindful and connected to our creator God. We need rhythms, tools, and practices that help remind us that God is with us even on the craziest of days. Let’s learn how we can apply christian contemplation to parenthood.
What Is Christian Contemplative Spirituality?
Contemplative spirituality is living a life of faith in submission to God. This posture drives your motivations and behavior. It is a life of prayer and action that is prompted by the Holy Spirit. Some of the ways this is lived out is through ritual, regular devotional time, liturgy, acts of service, observing sabbath, and more.
Gerald May, M.D., expresses it this way: “The Christian expression is in the two great commandments: to love God with one’s whole self and to love one’s neighbor as oneself. Theologically, spirituality is our desire for love’s fulfillment which, in turn, is our response to God’s loving us first (1 Jn 4:19).
We participate in the divine love that created us “so that we might seek God” (Acts 17:27). Further, the Christian contemplative tradition views God as always active in our lives, inviting, drawing and empowering us towards deepening love. … In a Christian context, because we “live and move and have our being” in God (Acts 17:28), being present to things as they are involves encountering the Christ who “fills the whole creation” (Eph. 1:23).
In other words, Christian contemplation means finding God in all things and all things in God. Brother Lawrence, the 17th-century Carmelite friar, called it “the loving gaze which finds God everywhere.””
Some of the core practices of contemplative spirituality include centering prayer that is usually silent, sacred reading, breath prayer or Jesus prayer that prompts us to pray without ceasing, daily examen where you reflect on the day to see how God worked, and a contemplative prayer while walking.
These practices help us teach our bodies, minds, and emotions to be more humble before God.
3 ways contemplative spirituality can help improve our parenting:
This idea that all we do is to be done with our connection to the Holy Spirit in mind can help strengthen us as parents. As a mom of four young kids, I find it hard to set aside dedicated time in my day to quietly pray or regularly read the Bible.
It is liberating to live in a way that acknowledges that the spiritual and the practical are not separate from one another. Here are some ways christian contemplative spirituality can help us as parents:
1. Contemplative Spirituality Helps Us Find Contentment in Every Season
If all we do is done as service unto the Lord then we can enjoy a sense of contentment in every season we walk through as parents. For sure there are some less than glamorous phases of parenthood! Changing diapers, constantly cleaning the endless trail of toys that follow your child’s path, or even those seasons that require long sleepless nights can challenge our ability to be present and joyful as caregivers.
When we begin to see that God is at work in our lives no matter what our circumstances then we can begin to see more purpose in the mundane. We can find God in the midst of your toddlers screaming tantrums, while cleaning the toilets in your home, or even when you find yourself out of patience with your teenager.
God does not divide our lives into parts that matter more or matter less. Work at your job is not more important to God than the work you do as a parent at home or vice versa. It all matters to Him and He is there with you through it all.
2. Contemplative Spirituality Helps us Live Intentionally
Contemplative spirituality encourages us to set up rhythms or patterns in our day that help us remain connected to God.
This may look like reading a liturgical prayer to start your day, it could be breakfast devotions as a family before heading off to school and work, it can be taking time to rest together as a family, attending your local church together weekly, pausing to pray together at each meal, serving your community as a family unit, or whatever pattern that you put in place to keep your eyes fixed on Jesus.
Embracing a pattern of prayer and worship as a family is a beautiful way to parent with spiritual intentionality. Our kids are most impacted by the behaviors we model more than anything else.
When we take time to pause and pray before eating or read a family devotion before bedtime we are showing them that our faith matters to us every day; it is not just something that is important on Sundays when we attend church.
The added bonus is that to parent well we need Jesus’ help! Pausing to pray, read, worship, or even just take a purposeful breath are all ways that we invite God into our parenting journey for each and every day. I began praying a simple prayer after my morning workouts that went like this: God I need your help to love my people well, please help me.
This is the simplest admission but a powerful reminder that I cannot parent the way I hope to on my own. I need God’s help and strength to get through each day and on the days I fail I need his gracious forgiveness.
There is never a time that I do not need Him.
3. Contemplative Spirituality Empowers Us to Be Better Parents
Ultimately contemplative spirituality is just being mindful about inviting the Holy Spirit into every moment of your day. The Holy Spirit empowers us to live with the fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).
When we are able to be more kind, more patient, when we model self-control, are filled with peace, point our children to the good things God has created, when we show love, and are faithful to our commitments we are better parents.
The Holy Spirit is the most important tool we have at our disposal as parents. Romans 8:26 says, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” When we feel weak and worn out the Spirit helps us.
When we are not sure how to pray for our families, the Spirit intercedes on our behalf. Inviting the Spirit into our days by implementing a routine that helps remind us that we are not on our own and that God is a part of every detail of our days is the most impactful thing we can do for our families as parents.
The word contemplation comes from the Greek word, theoria--meaning a passion and dedication to understanding the nature of reality. Christian contemplation prompts us to remember the reality that we are called to live in light of eternity.
Slowing the pace of our day and being intentional to include practices that connect your family to God is important.
When our lives are only filled with endless tasks, stress, and a constant hustle it is easy to forget that God is the most essential part of our life.
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/Halfpoint
Amanda Idleman is a writer whose passion is to encourage others to live joyfully. She writes devotions for My Daily Bible Verse Devotional and Podcast, Crosswalk Couples Devotional, the Daily Devotional App, she has work published with Her View from Home, on the MOPS Blog, and is a regular contributor for Crosswalk.com. You can find out more about Amanda on her Facebook Page or follow her on Instagram.