"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates."
Fortunately for we parents, the Bible is full of parenting advice from the true expert: Our Heavenly Father. This little section of the Old Testament is one very important example. Lately, I've been searching myself: Am I truly doing God's will in this area of my life? If not, then I need to change now. My children's lives depend upon it.
I love how the scripture starts by telling parents to look at themselves first: Do we have a passion for God? If not, our children will know it and learn from it. How about you? Do you read the Bible daily? Do you spend time in concentrated prayer with God every day? Do you pray without ceasing? (1 Thes. 5:17) Have you memorized key scriptures? (Deut. 6:6)
Is it difficult - very difficult! - to love and serve the Lord this way when we have small children. And yet what moms of young children need is exactly this focus on God. Yes, it's a struggle. But it can - and must - be done. (For tips on this struggle, please read Developing Your Prayer Life, Let Your Kids Hear You Pray, Keeping the Bible Handy, Memory Verse How-To, Finding Time for the Bible, and Finding Time to Read the Bible Together.)
Then God tells us to "impress" these things onto our children. How do we do that? By talking about God and the Bible constantly. By living like Christ.
This is, I think, the area where many Christian moms struggle the most. In church and in popular Christian books, we hear a lot about developing our personal relationship with Christ - but we hear almost nothing about training up our children the way these verses in Deuteronomy insists upon.
It is not enough to, once a day, sit down and read a Bible storybook to our kids. It's not enough to pray with them at meals and before bed. No, the Bible says we must constantly talk to our children about God's commands - at all times of the day, no matter where we are. How does one, in a practical sense, do this? Here are a few examples from our household, from a few days ago:
* First thing in the morning, my 7 year old was up and playing. She was being noisy, so I reminded her to be quiet, since her brother was still sleeping. She gave me a mad expression, so we talked about why it's important to put others first, practicing Christ-like servitude.
* After breakfast, my 3 year old lied about having a poopy diaper. I got down to eye level with him and explained that lying is always a bad thing. It's always best to be tell the truth because God hates lying lips (Proverbs 12:22) and lies always cause more problems than they seem to cover up.
* My children and I watched a nature show. Although we have several that are made from a creationist point of view, this one was secular. And, like all such secular shows, it talked about and earth that is billions of years old. So I paused the movie to hold a discussion about this topic. Because we've had other conversations like this, I let my 7 year old take the lead. "What do you think about the idea that the world is billions of years old?" I asked her. "Well," she said, "the Bible says the world is thousands of years old." We talked about how to get that calculation from the Bible, then I asked, "Do you think we should believe the Bible or scientists?" Both children agreed the Bible was a more accurate source; I confirmed that we should always look to the Bible first for answers. Unlike scientific theory, it does not change through the years.
* The show we were watching also contained an ad because it was recorded off television. My children aren't used to ads, to I had to explain what it was. Then I asked, "What do you think the purpose of an ad is?" My 7 year old said, "To get you to buy stuff." Bingo! And, as Kimberly Eddy writes in her book Joyful Momma's Guide to Quiet Times in Loud Households, all ads come down to "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life." (1 John 2:16)
* Later in the afternoon, we went for a walk. But first, we had to find my 3 year old's shoes. We searched high and low and I was loosing my patience. So I stopped, gathered the children to me, and prayed. It was just a simple prayer asking for peace in our hearts - and to help us find the shoes. A minute after praying this, I found the shoes. I thanked God, out loud.
* On our walk, I pointed out different things in nature: Types of trees and flowers, how the roots of plants soak up water, and so on. But whenever possible, I mentioned God's hand in these things.
* In the evening, as I was making dinner, I grew frustrated by constant interruptions as I was quickly trying to whip dinner together. I stopped everything, looked up to Heaven, and thanked God for children who interrupt me because that means we are home together and they love and trust me. I also thanked Him for food that can't seem to get cooked; at least we have food in our household. While I didn't specifically include the children in these prayers, they were observing.
* After dinner, I printed a Bible verse on a piece of paper and taped it to my desk as a reminder for myself. When my children are better able to read, I will encourage them to do similar things with Bible verses. For now, it's enough that they see me doing this.
* At bedtime, my 7 year old said she had something to tell me that she was a little afraid to say. I encouraged her to always be honest with me, even when it's really hard. I pointed out that Mommy, like God, is always there to listen and help and love, no matter what may have happened. It turned out her confession was minor and innocent, but I took advantage of this moment to remind her about confessing her sins to God so he can forgive her and wipe her slate clean.
In short, we must show our children how God is a vital part of our everyday lives.
How do you follow Deuteronomy 6: 5-9 in your household?