Have you ever spent time walking up a long steep hill and longing for the summit?  Or gazing at the night sky wishing for the dawn?  A map and compass give us information about the terrain we are hiking.  A clock (and a Psalm) reassures us that the sun will rise again, eventually.

Our need for orientation, to know where we stand, is very strong.  We long for an understanding of the physical or emotional terrain that we are exploring and I feel rudderless, rootless when I do not know what is around the next corner.    

A big part of our work as humans is to explore, analyse and describe our experiences, our relationships, our world.  We discover landmarks which we then name and mark in some way.    

And the people who went before us?  The people who smooth out the path in front of us?  They help us by making maps for us, by pointing out the landmarks.  We gain confidence for our journey by listening to their descriptions of the pitfalls, the hilltops, the success-moments they discovered.     And when I’m walking up a steep hill I find it useful to remember WHY I am climbing it.  When we look backwards through binoculars, objects look smaller.  When we “zoom out” from the close-up, my focus can shift away from myself.    

If I can allow my current battles to “look smaller” they come into focus, are placed in context.  If I can make some kindof meaning of my struggle, if I can see “the bigger picture”, if I know some good will come from my effort, then it becomes easier to keep plodding on.  I mean, when we compare our current suffering to the never-ending glory we’ll experience in Heaven…    

And I would love for you to think back to your experiences of facing challenges in the past….  What people have helped you, what books have laid a path in front of your feet and helped you feel a little more rooted?  What stories have shown you a deeper meaning behind struggle or journeying or suffering?      

And this is the genius of stories.  We share them with our children in order to 

  • hand them a map
  • point out the landmarks from which they can orientate themselves
  • help them zoom out from their own immediate perspective
  • invite them to see deeper meanings

And this is how we do it: 

We need to give our children an overview of the story, a zoomed-out version of the landscape, a picture of the “whole”.  

This is best illustrated in examples …  

In the Montessori 3-6 yr classroom a “land-and-water” globe of the world is presented to a child before a globe containing coloured continents, before a flat map, before naming the continents, before identifying “where-we-live”.  

In the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd 6-12yr Atrium, the story of Salvation History is laid out as a diagram, on one page, with three pertinent points in it.  In case you’re wondering what these three point are, they’re:

  • Creation,
  • Redemption (birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus) and
  • Parousia (Jesus’ Second Coming and when God will become All-In-All)

In the Godly Play Spiral Curriculum there is an amazing story detailing the Israelites journey from the point they experience famine and move to Egypt, to becoming enslaved and their journey through the Red Sea to freedom.  A lot of detail is removed from this story to keep the focus on the overall journey, to emphasise the progression from slavery to freedom.  

And we can use the same tactic in our stories with our children!  

  • give the overview,
  • map out the three or four key moments
  • draw a timeline
  • describe the landmarks along the way

In time I will show you a story I wrote for my son, responding to one particular situation and mapping out some landmarks…   

But right now I invite you to ponder and think.  

This is today’s invitation:  

What people have helped you, what books have laid a path in front of your feet and helped you feel a little more rooted?  

What stories have shown you a deeper meaning behind struggle or journeying or suffering?   

And I wonder …:

How did they do that?  Why did that help?  What was the map, the landmarks, the overview, the zooming-out-of-your-own-perspective that they made present?  

Please let me know!  


Kate Cavanagh,
Raising Happy Healthy Christian Kids
Your Domestic Ark

P.S.  In summary, I’m asking you, today:  What stories in your life, your childhood, provided orientation, perspective and meaning?  What three (or four) landmarks did they contain?

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