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    Reflections on Faithfulness

    November 18, 2009 by Brandy Vencel

    FA’ITHFULNESS, n

    1. Fidelity; loyalty; firm adherence to allegiance and duty; as the faithfulness of a subject.

    2. Truth; veracity; as the faithfulness of God.

    3. Strict adherence to injunctions, and to the duties of a station; as the faithfulness of servants or ministers.

    4. Strict performance of promises, vows or covenants; constancy in affection; as the faithfulness of a husband or wife.

    Webster’s 1828 Dictionary

    Every week during Circle Time, we have a new “manner” we study. I use the term manner loosely, referring to proper behavior. This is how I get away with throwing the virtues in along with remembering to close the toilet lid.

    This week, our focus has been faithfulness, and we are using as our theme verse Galatians 5:22, which says that faithfulness is a fruit of the Spirit, so we know that this isn’t just some trick we learn to perform, but something that grows from inside of us as we submit to the work of God in our lives. I want them to know from the very beginning, just like Timothy, who was taught the Scriptures from his infancy, that when they struggle with faithfulness, it is a spiritual struggle.

    I have to admit that when I turned the page to Week 12 in my notebook, I was shocked that I had chosen faithfulness. What was I thinking? I asked myself. Suddenly, it seemed so abstract, and as I turned to the children I was doubting my ability to convey the concept.

    It got worse when I had the bright idea of asking anyone if they knew what faithfulness was.

    No one did.

    When I asked if anyone knew what loyalty was, it wasn’t any better.

    No one did.

    And for a moment I prayed, asking God to help me define faithfulness without using the word loyalty, or rather to be able to convey the ideas of loyalty and faithfulness at the same time.

    Thankfully, God is faithful.

    Ahem.

    So in the course of discussion, I realized something I’d never thought about before. {You know you are studying something worth while if you as the teacher come away thinking, too.} I realized that, most of the time, faithfulness doesn’t really kick in in any tangible way until things start to go wrong in the relationship or in life.

    As my son was trying to process the concept, he said something like, “Faithfulness is still being a friend even when it gets boring or hard.”

    This reminded me of a verse:

    If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.

    Luke 6:32

    The same logic can be used when discussing faithfulness: if I am only there for my God/friend/husband/parents/sister/cousin/church/etcetera when times are good, what credit is that to me? Even a sinner {the Greek here means a man who is wicked or devoted to a life of sin} can do that. It is a work of the Lord when my care for another extends, consistently and firmly, into the difficult times.

    Faithfulness is an objective Good in the metaphysical sense.

    So, as I said, I prayed that the Lord would help me explain this to these young ones. If I had only known what I was asking for! This week, most of the children have had the sniffles, and the result has been poor tempers. Couple this with typical childish sins, and I had the making of a disaster object lesson.

    I tried my best that first Monday morning, but things got interesting late morning during playtime. I heard various voices say, “I’m not going to be your friend anymore!” I saw the silent treatment given by more than one little culprit. I saw, in essence, a complete and total lack of faithfulness.

    They–all of them–were fair-weather friends.

    Tuesday was worse. It wasn’t until Tuesday afternoon that I realized that this was a teachable moment. This was their chance to work out what it means to be faithful in their own little lives.

    So this morning, when we read yet another verse on faithfulness, and also reviewed the theme verse for the week, I chose not to point fingers. Instead, I was reminded to ask questions:

    “Neighbor M., what does it mean to be faithful when your friend is sick? What does unfaithfulness look like?”

    “E., if you were playing in the backyard with Friend C. and you got mad at him, what does it mean to be faithful? And unfaithful?”

    This, of course, led into various discussion on tattling and also whether or not anger is a sin {it’s not}. But, red herrings aside, I think they are beginning to get the point.

    We talked also about faithfulness extending into the future. What does it look like to be faithful when your husband/wife is cranky? What does it look like to be faithful when your parents are sick or old? Children have a keen sense of justice, so once they grasped what faithfulness was, they were quick to apply it to these situations.

    It is never too early to teach them that they have to babysit me when I’m old. Ha.

    I left off encouraging them to practice faithful friendships in their own yards. So far today, they’re trying.

    And in the process I realized something that I’ll be talking about in more depth soon: When we teach things to our children, we ourselves are refined. I know more about faithfulness now than I did last week.

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    7 Comments

  • Reply Rachel R. November 27, 2009 at 8:36 pm

    I like Manners Made Easy.

  • Reply Brandy Afterthoughts November 21, 2009 at 9:09 pm

    Dawn,

    The second you wrote that, I became fearful I wouldn’t finish it! That is why blogging works so well for me…I finish in small chunks rather than trying to work on one thing over the long haul.

    However, since this is just going to be what we did this past year, with thorough descriptions and suggestions, I suppose only total and complete sloth would stop me! Ack.

    Seriously, though, if you ever find a good manners book that you like (any of you out there), please come back and link it here!

    🙂

  • Reply dawn November 21, 2009 at 1:22 am

    Oooooh! I want your ebook, I had the same original question as Mystie.

  • Reply Brandy Afterthoughts November 19, 2009 at 11:18 pm

    I have never seen anything that really talked about young children and their interactions with adults. What we did was basically observed older children who acted in ways we thought were appropriate (how relative is that?? ha.) and listed them in our minds.

    So, for instance, they looked adults in the eye when they spoke, answered questions appropriate (like, “what is your name” and “how old are you” and other questions adults ask of children). They knew how to shake hands. They did not correct their elders (we are working with one of our children on this one right now). They did not joke with their elders.

    From that list, we started tackling one at a time with our children. It seems like eye contact and answering questions is where we always started first…

    Our list also contained things dealing with propriety: well-mannered children have been taught propriety (how to dress for different occasions, how to behave in a restaurant, how to behave for special events, how to act in a store, and so on).

  • Reply Mystie November 19, 2009 at 6:45 am

    My friend was thinking in terms of how we should be teaching our children to relate to adults and peers and teaching interaction. Surrounded by a culture of anything-goes, do we wholesale adopt a Little House etiquette where children may not speak in adult company unless directly addressed? We didn’t think so, but is there a source for middle-ground guidelines?

    Sounds like you have something that might fill a niche! 🙂 I look forward to seeing it!

  • Reply Brandy Afterthoughts November 19, 2009 at 4:52 am

    Mystie,

    Funny you would ask! I am actually working over this school year on a sort of “curriculum” eBook. Basically, it’ll detail what we did this year for the 36 weeks of regular school and 3 weeks of DecemberTerm. I’m writing it myself for myself because I couldn’t find anything that worked for us. I wanted something really basic that fit into a Circle Time sort of atmosphere and was rooted in Scripture. Anyhow, I thought I’d put it out there for anyone who wants it, but it won’t be complete until I have “testdriven” it myself.

    I have had success at times with searching for combinations of the words “etiquette” and “manners” and “children” or “Christians” on Google Books if your friend is looking for something ASAP.

  • Reply Mystie November 19, 2009 at 12:53 am

    This is great, Brandy! What a reminder to be looking for those opportunities in their lives to apply practically the ideas we talk about — yet without getting preachy.

    Did you have a source for your manners instruction? I just had someone ask awhile ago if I knew of a place to find manners children should have, and I couldn’t think of anything.

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