My little ones and my husband are all taking a nap right now and my house is silent. Like, eerily quiet. This almost never happens. With this midday break from the chaos and bustle of busy toddlers I find myself trying not to be selfish with my time but rather reflective.
We as parents begin to unravel a mountain of worry in these quiet moments. I wonder if my children are happy. Are they healthy? Are they adjusting well to a new house and a new baby brother? What can I do later today to make them both feel included and loved? Mainly above all my mind keeps drifting back to if they are spiritually healthy. So, what does a spiritually healthy toddler look like?
To begin, let’s start with the One who gave them to us. He is Jehovah Shalom. Jesus, in scripture, is referred to as Sar Shalom, or “Prince of Peace”. The interesting thing about this word, shalom, is that it is a lot bigger than just its English translation of the word.
If God Himself decided to carry shalom in one of His names then it is extremely significant. Shalom means not only peace like freedom from disturbance or violence but it also means completeness. The Hebrew root denotes wholeness. Shalom means to be safe, sound, healthy, perfect and complete. God’s plan for us is to be perfectly balanced children who have harmony in all areas of our lives, i.e. wholeness, harmony, completeness. Health in all areas.If our Heavenly Father cares about our spiritual well-being, then why is it often neglected by Christian parents? It’s not my intention to accuse anyone of not caring, in fact, we do a lot to ensure they are brought up Godly. We take them to church and try to teach them right but is there some way we can give them a spiritual checkup? If you will, a God-checkup?
The Bible talks about a righteous judgement in Matthew 7. In context, it speaks of false prophets and how to know if there are any influencing you. You simply look at their fruit. We are going to take this same principle and apply it to our children, not to find out if they are false prophets but in the spirit of Matthew 7:20 (NKJV), “Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”
So with all of the work and prayer that we pour into our children, the fruit that they bear will tell where they are and quite possibly what we need to work on. Even the youngest baby has a place and purpose in the Kingdom of God and can bear fruit. It all starts with one simple question to you, mom or dad- How and how often does your child praise?
Matthew 21:15-16 in NKJV says, “But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the temple and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant and said to Him, “Do You hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes. Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise’?”
Wow! Babes and nursing infants. Can you imagine Jesus saying that a three-month-old, still nursing, is capable of perfect praise? So, what is praise, exactly, if not Sunday morning worship for adults?
A study of the Hebrew word for praise breaks down into 7 distinct ways to praise. I will briefly go over each one to give you a more complete picture of praise in the biblical sense.
- YADAH is to praise by extending your hands up. Picture when your little one raises their arms up to you for you to lift them up. That, is essentially yadah.
- TEHILLAH is to praise through spontaneous song. How many times have you heard (or will hear) your child burst out into a loud, unashamed song about how much they love something… like the color blue, or how strawberries taste, or sunshine?
- BARAK means to kneel or bow to give reverence to God. This is much like when you are giving a stern word or are sharing a serious moment with your child and they bow their head and look down, not in shame, but in yielding to authority.
- HALAL is loud, celebratory, boastful, foolish, raving glorious praise. It means to show forth light or also to shine. Think of a little child opening presents on Christmas morning and their reaction at getting exactly what they wanted. That loud, silly song and dance of celebration is halal.
- TOWDAH means not only to extend your open hands out but to do it in a sacrificial manner. This implies adoration during need, not just a request. Towdah implies when your child is hungry, they are experiencing need and they come to you with open hands because they trust you and anticipate you will feed them. When they are sick, they look to you for comfort, in a sense, with open hands.
- ZAMAR happens whenever our band practice ends with the adults standing around talking and my children get to play with some of the instruments. Loud, happy, vaguely familiar songs accompanied by the “twang” of guitar strings being played way too hard. Zamar is a psalm or praise song accompanied by strings.
- SHABACH is essentially a loud testimony of triumph. Picture your little one loudly boasting about something that they had just accomplished.
In Psalm 8:2, babes and suckling infants are again mentioned, “Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have ordained strength, Because of Your enemies, That You may silence the enemy and the avenger (NKJV).”
Notice the wording here. God has given babes and nursing infants strength to silence THE enemy. The very definition of enemy means a person who is actively opposed or hostile to someone or something. Merriam-Webster defines avenge as to exact satisfaction for (a wrong) by punishing the wrongdoer. What is a child’s strength? You may think that I am stretching here but I think it is praise. Praise is our strength as Christians and praise from our little ones will silence the enemy. Hallelujah!
If you look up the word health it means to be sound in mind, body, and spirit. Shalom means to be complete and sound in all areas. How can we check our little one’s spiritual health? Monitor and guide their praise. Teach them how to praise by example and encourage all the distinct types of praise. God has already put perfect praise inside of them. As parents, we are to create situations where they can flourish and grow their fruit.
Not only will our children have a more secure foundation as they grow, but they will become an even more important part of our family. Jesus did not say, “Out of the mouths of adults and elders You have perfected praise.” How amazing is God, that, when we have the adversary accusing and pointing and trying to trip us up, the one that God has given the strength to muzzle him is the least and little among us in our family?
And it all starts with praise.