One of the many aspects of being a priest at Saint John’s is the occasional pastoral encounter with students. On my very first day, I was asked to talk to one of our students whose brother had recently passed away. I have training on how to deal with adults on such issues, but I wondered it those same techniques were appropriate when relating to children. In separate incidents, within my first week, I had three students in my office who had been accused of bullying. Fortunately, after a couple of hair-raising months of such things, Dr. Hadley, our Head of School, started. He handles the disciplinary actions. But there remains the occasional encounter.
When meeting with a child, the part I struggle with the most is silence. If you have children, especially boys, you probably know what I’m talking about. The student comes in, sits down, I ask them a series of questions, and they just sit there, silent, like a bump on a log. How does one break through the silence? I know what to do with adults but kids are different.
I imagine God feels the same way with most people in prayer life. “Silence.” It does not occur because God’s not willing to listen; as the prayer goes, God is always more willing to listen than we are to ask. So we are like children to God just like the children who are in trouble are to me.
A recent article in Time magazine, “What Boys Want.” addresses silence as it relates to boys. The author, Rosalind Wiseman, wrote that boys tend to shut down in face of an intense round of questioning. The problem remains, however, how to get children to talk. Wiseman, in her article, gives some great advice. She advises adults to say less, and allow for a connection to occur during quieter times. Boys, in particular, are more likely to say more when they are feeling relaxed.
With my children, I have found that a good time to talk is in the car. Perhaps it’s because I’m distracted enough by driving that I don’t ask a series of questions. And, they’re bored (albeit relaxed and quiet) and maybe tired and seem thus more willing to open up to conversation.
Wiseman’s good parenting advice is also appropriate for any Advent season. I have noticed that God reveals more to me when I’m relaxed and not dealing with an overwhelming number of forces that vie for my attention. God knows how to create a connection with me – it’s during quiet, relaxed times. The question for me this busy season is this: am I willing to create quiet time so that I can open up to God.
- Fr. Marshall