Next week our school will be hosting an "International Night"- displaying various booths, representing various countries and people groups-complete with food and cultural entertainment. In preparation for that night, a handful of displays have been set up throughout the school. I have managed to read and look through a few of them, and have found the various marriage/childbirth/coming of age/and burial rituals extremely fascinating.
And of course....they have gotten me thinking.
One of the Asian birthing customs that I heard about (Pakistan? Malaysia? can't recall...) greatly inspired. As soon as the child is born the father picks him up and whispers in his ear:
"God is Great."
"I bear witness that there is none worthy of being worshipped except Allah."
"I bear witness that Muhammed is the Apostle of Allah."
"Come to Prayer."
"Come to Success."
"God is Great."
"There is no object of worship other than Allah."
The desire is for "Allah" to be the first word that the child hears, and for the notion (and act) of worship to be introduced immediately.
If you attended Mark and I's wedding then you know that every minute of our ceremony, every word that was spoken, was planned and rich with meaning. A wedding is a wondrous celebration, but also (in my mind) a sacred moment that is to be set apart. A wedding is a new beginning, as two people start their lives together. It is important to take the time to incorporate one's most important life values at this "new beginning". How much more important, then, is it to celebrate and set apart a birth of a child, introducing the life values you most want to teach to your child?
We have decided that in some form or fashion we would like to adopt this Muslim tradition as a family ritual, to begin with the birth of our first child. We would like to write a prayer for each child during their pregnancy, and for that prayer to be of the first words they hear. We also intend for each of our children's names to be our prayer for their life-and that will be included in the prayer we first pray over them when they are minutes into this world. And of course, of course, I am aware that perhaps the circumstances of our child's (children's) birth will be chaotic, with many people entering in and out, and so maybe this will be out of place in a hospital room. But it will be done...because I want to live this life with my devotion to Christ on the forefront of my mind, my heart, my lips. And my deepest prayer and longing for my children is that they too might devote themselves to our Lord. I want my children to know that the first thing I said to them involved their Savior, I want to read their prayers over them at every birthday celebration. I want them to know, as I know now (even without any plans to conceive a child),that they were divinely created and purposed.
And then a few weeks after their birth I want to have a "Baby Shower". But instead of games and presents, I want it to be a ceremony, much like a wedding ceremony. A dedication to raise my child in a Godly manner. A time for loved ones to gather round and hear my heart, my prayers for my child, and to pray them with me.
This, I think, is something that those Pakistani (?), thos Malaysian (?) families, got right.