Valuing Preschool Years

abby-largeby Nancy Tichy, Author for KidZ at Heart International

The child gazed, full faced, into the camera, as if waiting for a signal.  He then turned to the keyboard and began to play.  It was a beautiful piece designed to show off his talent, and for the five minutes of the video, he demonstrated a great gift.  Clearly, a prodigy, he must have been tall for his age to reach the pedal which he used to create shading for the series of runs and chords he performed so well.  I was not certain whether this was something he wrote himself.  The brief description told of his having perfect pitch, being able to memorize easily, and already being experienced in composition.  He was still a five year old however; I caught glimpses of blue jeans under the bright red Asian costume he was wearing. You can watch the video to see what I mean.

In the music world he was certainly ahead of the curve.  How many will catch up to him by the time he’s fifteen?  And would many surpass him a decade later?  That’s hard to guess.  A brilliant beginning does not always guarantee a steady maturing of the gift into adult years.  But young Evan Le has a lot going for him.  His parents obviously recognized his giftedness early on and found fine teachers to guide him; their names were mentioned.

All this brought back a conversation I had a couple of decades ago with a woman who came up to me after a teaching session over which I had presided as guest of a church’s Children’s Ministry Director.  I must have said something about the significance of early childhood – the first five years – in spiritual formation.  She agreed and told me of her grandchild, not yet five years old, who had unusual spiritual perception…God awareness.  Couldn’t he be a kind of prodigy?  I agreed with her.  I’m convinced even more now that many preschool children exhibit a window of readiness to hear God speak to them and to respond to him.  I venture there is a lot more of this than we’ll admit because we’re not always sensitive to recognize it, and what’s more, sadly,  to nurture it.  And the windows close.

I guess I said something along this line recently at a granddaughter’s birthday party. Before it was over, a woman sat beside me, and we shared a little of our mutual interest in children.  Turns out she’s the creator and director of a church’s preschool program in our valley.  She agreed with what she had overheard me say earlier.

I once heard a pastor tell that he wondered if an infant can still hear angels sing.  Whatever you may think of this, I hope you’re alert to early signs that a child is ready to respond to God’s prompting by the Holy Spirit.  Of course, we do well to encourage this and not to force it.  But if we err in any direction, I think we are generally more concerned about physical health issues, intellectual development and other aspects of growth of the preschooler than we are of his readiness to hear God speak and respond with the capacity that is naturally his.

The Psalmist talks of God knowing us when we were in our mother’s womb. For those of us who still have contact with the very young, let’s be vigilant to whisper phrases of God’s love in their ears, sing snatches of praise music with them, surround them in their environment with images more likely to reflect the Good Shepherd than the current Disney figures.  Let’s be careful to feed and protect their spirits, until God does his redeeming work of grace and quickens their human spirits with life from above. [Psalm139:13-18; Jeremiah 1:4-9]

The Lord says, “Before you were born I set you apart.” Jeremiah 1:5b

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