Thursday, November 24, 2011

Teachable Moments

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.
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 upon 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.”
(Deuteronomy 6:4-9)

Moses knew the Israelites were quick to forget what God wanted them to remember. He knew that they were a stiff-necked, rebellious people (not very unlike us). So he constantly reminded them of what God had done, of what He had commanded, and of all that He had promised them. He also emphasized how critically important it was to teach these truths to the next generation.

Love God with all of your being. Store up His commandments in your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them. All the time. Look for opportunities. Use physical reminders on your hands, foreheads, doorframes and gates. Don’t forget. Remember Well.

One of my favorite parts of home schooling is the amount of time our family is able to spend together.  We have ample opportunities for conflict resolution and for teachable moments. I seized one of these moments a couple of weeks ago when I discovered that the boys had brought their discussion about unfairness of chore distribution into the kitchen while Jordan and I were cleaning up after lunch. My ears detected grumbling.

So, I explained my view on the purpose of chores: a means by which everyone contributes to the family. If your workload ends up being more than another’s on a certain day, you can rejoice and not complain. You get to do more. You can be a joyful contributor! But if you carry with you a constant comparison of work and an evaluation of whether the distribution is unfair to you or not, you will be a critical complainer.

I was really feeling positive about this teachable moment with my kids on such a relevant issue, with a definite impact on what kind of people they will become in society. And I triumphantly concluded with a paraphrase of Philippians 2:14-15. “Do everything without complaining or arguing so that you shine like stars in the universe in this crooked and depraved generation!”

“They’re gone.” Jordan informed me.

Yes. She was right. I don’t know how I didn’t notice them slipping out, but CJ and Joshua had already moved on. At what point I’m not sure, but I think it was probably toward the beginning.  

“Oh well. You got it, right?” I asked Jordan.

“Yep,” she answered in typical Jordan fashion and went on with her work.

What they “get” I don’t always know. But I’m trying. I try to be attentive and discerning in those teachable moments. I want to say the “right” thing at the “right” time that will make a difference in my children’s lives. I often look back and see moments that I missed. Then I pray that God would help me next time not to be so focused on myself or on the task at hand. Other times, the moments don’t play out in the ways that I hope they will, and so I have learned the importance of being able to laugh at myself (like in this story about chores).

Two years ago, my greatest prayer request was to learn to laugh with my kids, because I knew I was taking life and home schooling too seriously. God has been helping me to relax and to enjoy them more. I really do love to laugh with them!  Motherhood is both one of my greatest joys and one of my greatest challenges. I know my children are learning from me, but I think it is probably more from how I live than from what I try to teach them.

Psalm 78 is one of my favorites about generations.

“O my people, hear my teaching;
listen to the words of my mouth.
I will open my mouth in parables,
I will utter hidden things, things from of old—
what we have heard and known,
what our fathers have told us.
We will not hide them from their children;
we will tell the next generation
the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD,
his power, and the wonders he has done.
He decreed statutes for Jacob
and established the law in Israel,
which he commanded our forefathers
to teach their children,
so the next generation would know them,
even the children yet to be born,
and they in turn would tell their children.
Then they would put their trust in God
and would not forget his deeds
but would keep his commands.
(v. 1-7)

I love the way this psalm ends with a description of David: “And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them.” (v. 72)

One of my favorite parenting books is Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp. He says, “As the shepherd, you want to help your child understand himself as a creature made by God and for God. You cannot show him these things merely by instruction; you must lead him on a path of discovery. You must shepherd his thoughts, helping him to learn discernment and wisdom.

This shepherding process is a richer interaction than telling your child what to do and think. It involves investing your life in your child in open and honest communication that unfolds the meaning and purpose of life. It is not simply direction, but direction where there is self-disclosure and sharing. Values and spiritual vitality are not simply taught, but caught.

Proverbs says, ‘He who walks with the wise becomes wise.’ As a wise parent your objective is not simply to discuss, but to demonstrate the freshness and vitality of life lived in integrity toward God and your family. Parenting is shepherding the hearts of your children in the ways of God’s wisdom.” (xix)

Teachable moments. Lord, first help my heart to be teachable. And grant me your grace to shepherd with discernment, integrity, and vitality.

Joshua's 15th birthday celebration today

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