Just this past Sunday, we started a new parenting class at church. We will be watching the video series Getting to the Heart of Parenting by Paul Tripp. (If you are not familiar with Paul, you may have heard of his brother, Tedd, who wrote, Shepherding a Child's Heart.) My husband and I recently had the opportunity to hear Paul speak at a marriage conference (I talked about that here), so I was excited to hear what he has to say with regard to parenting. The video took up about half of the Sunday School hour, and then we followed up with discussion and answering some thought-provoking (translated: convicting) questions.
The interesting (to me...) part of this week's study came at the absolute VERY beginning...in fact, even before we watched the video, as the leader had us look at the passage that Paul would read to begin. You might be thinking to yourself (like I was), "Okay...parenting series...it's probably (insert verse of choice here)..."
Judges 2: 6-15
Yep...Judges. NOT the first place I would turn to in my quest for parenting. But...check out verse 10...
...And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel.
You'll notice it doesn't say, who did not follow the Lord, the God of their Fathers...it says who. did. not. know.
The leaders...heads of families, and priests and judges failed to follow God's commands in teaching the next generation of the works of the Lord, as he had commanded them (as found in Deuteronomy).
Only take care, keep your soul diligently lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children's children, how on the day that you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, the Lord said to me, "Gather the people to me that I may let them hear my words so that they may learn to fear me all the days that they live on the earth and that they may teach their children so. (Deuteronomy 4:9-10)
The emphasis is mine... Notice that the first command is to the fathers (parents) to keep their own soul diligently. We cannot tend to others, if our own is a disaster. Paul (Tripp) said, "You cannot give away that which you do not have."
Hear O, Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. (Deuteronomy 6:4-6)
This language of all your might is expressed totally in Hebrew, so the New Testament states it as mind and strength. This is the language of devotion. God does not demand mere outward obedience to a law, but the heartfelt love and commitment of the whole person. (notes from here)
When I think about devotion, I can't help but think of Olivia Newton-John singing Hopelessly Devoted to You in Grease. I know, I know...REALLY, did she just go down that road?!? Comparing Sandy's adolescent infatuation with Danny to how we are commanded to love the Lord? Yes, I'm afraid I did...but, all joking put aside, we really are to be consumed with God and a good picture of that is how a young lover is utterly consumed with this new emotion.
My notes from Sunday's class...God is the ultimate fact that defines and gives reason to every other fact. Nothing can be properly understood without knowing the character and existence of God. He has created us in such a way that His world reveals Him. Because of this, it is un-natural for us NOT to be talking about Him ALL. THE. TIME. Your job as a parent is to give your child awe of something other than himself. A human being who does not live in awe of God is a profoundly disadvantaged human. Our lifestyle has to be in a place where we're slowing down to discover, notice, and talk about the awe of God with your children. Busy schedules do not allow for this recognition. Children will acquire a sense of awe (of something) from somewhere, if not from us. This sense of awe should be something that naturally flows from us so that our children are immersed in it, from the time they are born.
And then, back to the Bible...I bet this might have been one of those verses where you expected him to start...
You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:6-9)
Not only are we as parents to be consumed with awe of God, so that our children see it in us, but God clearly wants the children involved and taught of this awe. And, this is not a teaching "from an arm's length" kind of thing. It seems so often parents feel like they have to "hold back" or "hold out" on their kids until they've made some sort of decision to follow Christ, or worse, until the parents see evidence of a decision. But really, let's be honest here, don't we all make that decision EVERY. SINGLE. DAY? With the presence of sin in our lives, we are all battling this every minute of every day, and those are the moments when we need this awe of God the most.
Something is going to influence our children, and if we're waiting around for them to be old enough to understand, or waiting for this magical moment when they decide to follow, we've wasted some of the most valuable time God has given us in teaching them... by example.
Yeah... by example.
Now, I'm not discrediting time of instruction, family worship, etc. But, if we only invite God at our times when we sit still and quiet and listen (NOT FUN for little kids, HELLO!), or when we are disciplining, God doesn't really seem like someone to be in awe of. He doesn't dwell only on His judgement and curses in the Bible. The main thread of the Bible focuses on His mercy in sending His Son. Now, my 2 year old can't fully grasp that concept yet. But she can understand when I tell her that the moth she is fascinated by and consumed with watching was created by God...that He designed their wings so that they could fly and gave them their colors so that could hide to stay safe and isn't He just magnificent to have designed all of this?
And no, she won't grasp all of that (although I'm constantly amazed!), but in that moment, what has taken place is that she now associates God as being Creator of moths (along with all the other cool bugs), and that is pretty awesome to her. Not only that, but Mom was pretty excited about God and how He designed this... So next time we talk about God, she remembers the moth and Mom's awe and she's receptive. Now she might also remember Mom saying, "You disobeyed and God says when you disobey, Mommy has to discipline you." But, there has to be both...and as her mind matures she will understand more and more this wonder of mercy and forgiveness...or she will tune it out because...there goes Mom preaching about God again.
So...what does all of this have to do with a list of a thousand gifts on Thankful Thursday?
These gifts that I am noticing, experiencing, anticipating... this sense of awe... can be lived out and shared with my daughter, though she is not yet 3 years old. Not just CAN they, but God has commanded it.
This is one of my absolute favorite hymns.
Let children hear the mighty deeds
which God performed of old;
Which in our younger years we saw,
And which our fathers told.
He bids us make his glories known,
His works of power and grace;
And we'll convey His wonders down
Through every rising race.
Our lips shall tell them to our sons,
And they again to theirs;
That generations yet unborn
May teach them to their heirs.
Thus shall they learn in God alone
Their hope securely stands
That they may ne'er forget His works,
But practice His commands.