Childhood is without doubt the most influential stage of life. It’s thought that the first eight years of your life are crucial in determining how you develop in later years. The importance of a safe and stable environment for a child can never be underestimated.
With this in mind I’ve been reflecting on the life of Moses whose first year was fraught with traumatic experiences none of us would wish for own children.
Born into a campaign of genocide, Moses’ life was threatened from his first few seconds with Jochebed, his mother, hiding him for three months (Exodus 2:2).
I can’t imagine the anxiety she must have felt knowing that her baby son could be taken away at any moment if he were discovered. If there were death threats against my child, I’d be on high alert, making sure he was really hidden, quashing those desires to celebrate and show off my newborn with friends and family. As if that weren’t enough, for his own protection, Jochebed goes through the agonising decision to abandon him to the ravages of the River Nile in the hope of a safer life.
Experts in the neurobiology of trauma and childhood development will tell us that our brains are highly receptive to danger in the first year of life and incidences of trauma at such an early age can have a significant impact on our adult brains. Children exposed to abuse or danger can have higher levels of anxiety and fear with limited understanding of ways to regulate these overwhelming emotions. Where experts resoundingly agree is that the answer to navigating and developing emotionally is through a consistent, loving relationship.
How Jochebed would have rejoiced when not only was Moses found by the princess of Egypt but she, his mother, had the opportunity to nurse and care for him in his early years with permission from the Palace and on a salary too!
However, the day came for Moses to connect with his ‘new’ mother and despite having the best education in the world (Acts 7:22) and living a life of incomparable luxury, there’s a troubling sense of the possibility that Moses’ early-trauma could have had substantial influence into adulthood.
As an adult, we read about Moses’ murder of an Egyptian who he’d witnessed beating a Hebrew, an injustice he felt keenly and through an overwhelm of emotion, his actions went way too far. Consequently he fled from fear for his own life, to land of Midian……but God had a plan for Moses.
If only we could confidently illustrate a different picture today. If only we could tell of children in present day Britain who don’t ever suffer from trauma, or danger, or abandonment or neglect. And if only, we could say that brains are different, somehow more resilient than a few thousand years ago.
Research shows that half of all mental health problems have been established by the age of fourteen. And we know too that two thirds of children say they worry ‘all the time’.
I don’t believe that’s the hopeful and prosperous future plan that God has for our children. At TLG, our heartbeat is the belief that local churches are the hope for our nation. It all begins with local churches believing, as our expert neurobiologists would agree, that our consistent and loving church communities have such transformative power that they can truly change lives.
To return to Moses’ story, it’s when he finds a home in the loving community of Jethro’s family that things really begin to change for him. It’s from that place that God speaks with Moses, stirring his heart again to the injustices of his people and, together with Aaron, giving him the opportunity to deliver God’s spectacular plan to the Israelites. Despite what he’d been through and despite his faults, maybe it was by becoming part of a nurturing and meaningful community that Moses was able to be in a place to hear God’s call and become the leader that the history books remember him as.
In your town, or your city, or your village, your church is a loving community with the power to bring hope and unlock a future by demonstrating to so many, especially struggling children, that they are loved and that there is a God who knows the wonderful purpose for their lives.
Moses’ life could have been a story lacking hope. But instead, he changed a nation. There are children in your community right now lacking hope; whether they’re facing bereavement, family breakdown, bullying and neglect. Given the chance, could they change a nation?
At TLG, there’s a quote we come back to again and again to remind us the difference that local churches can make. It comes from Josh Shipp, a former at-risk foster child who now describes himself as a global youth empowerment expert. He says:
“Every kid is one caring adult away from being a success story.”
My hope and prayer is that, just like Moses, we will see a generation of children empowered by the nurturing springboard of church families; children who, despite the challenges they face and past choices they have made, become leaders with the strength to change nations.
Across the UK, TLG’s network or partner churches is growing every week with more and more caring adults like you saying a huge “yes!” to supporting struggling children. You too can join many other New Wine churches and be a significant part in bringing transformation to the lives of children and families in your community today.
With twenty years’ experience working with children in both church and school situations, Rachel has pioneered and now heads up TLG’s Early Intervention programme supporting children struggling in mainstream primary and secondary schools. Oh, and she’s got three teenagers of her own at home!