Sunday, January 27, 2013
Mezuzah: A reminder of my calling
Josh returned from his trip to Israel a few days ago and one of the souveniers he brought home is a Mezuzah. A Mezuzah is a small wooden box that is placed on the doorframe of your home. Inside it contains a small piece of parchment on which are written the verses from Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21. It is to be a reminder to you each time you enter your home.
We have not yet placed our Mezuzah on the doorframe but I am thrilled that we will soon have this reminder of my favorite verses displayed prominently in our home. This small section of Scripture from Deuteronomy 6 has become my set of life verses for this intense mothering stage of life.
ESV Deuteronomy 6:4-9 "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 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.
Just before this in chapter 5 God had given the Israelites the ten commandments. And then he said these words.
I love the sequence here.
First, God tells us what he expects. Then he reminds us of who he is. Next he tells us how to live as he expects. And lastly, he reminds us of why this is important.
In living out our faith and parenting our children, every single step of this sequence is necessary.
1. God's expectations. God gives us the 10 commandments. Which by the way, were not written because he's a scrooge, but for our benefit. Think about it ... a requirement to rest? Umm, yeah. That's a pretty good thing. Children told to obey and honor their parents? I'm happy I can remind my kids of that! Do not murder, do not steal, do not commit adultery? God is showing us what to avoid in order to keep ourselves from a world of hurt.
So many times I have heard people say that the 10 commandments are God's rules, but that because we sin we can never really expect to live up to them. Carolyn Mahaney says, "For whenever God gives a command, He also provides the grace to obey it." The issue of obedience, then, really comes down to a choice of our will. It's not a matter of if we can obey, but of whether we will choose to obey. There is always a choice to obey or disobey. And God's Word tells us that he will always provide a way out of temptation (I Corinthians 10:13). But although God will always provide a way out, it's up to us to take it.
For many years, it has been helpful to me to think of God's commands as guardrails in my life. On the road you will often see guardrails set up to keep cars from careening into a ditch or off a cliff. Or sometimes they serve to keep us from traffic moving the other direction. As drivers, we don't look at these guardrails and think of them as a nuisance or a hindrance to our driving fun. Rather we recognize that they were put there for our safety and our benefit. It is the same with God's commands. They are not a hindrance to our growth and spiritual health. Rather they protect us from the dangers of sin. They can remind us to swerve away from things that would head us in the wrong direction. They can even save us from death!
2. God tells us who he is. Okay, so the 10 commandments are for our benefit, but they are also for God's. He is the Creator. He made us. I made a cake last week. How would it be if that cake could talk and tell me exactly when I could eat it, how much I could eat, which utensils to use, and what to put alongside it? A poor comparison, but still we are the created ones. We were intentionally designed, and as such, the One who created us really does have the right to call the shots. God is God. I am not. He deserves all the glory for, control of, and honor from our lives.
3. God tells us how to live according to his rules. How is this accomplished? It is taught to children from infancy. This really goes hand in hand with the verse from Proverbs 22:6. "Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it." These verses in Deuteronomy 6 give us the "how to". They tell us exactly what to do as parents to ensure that our children will grow up to be godly men and women. So, what do we do? We include our faith in every facet of life. We talk about God and godly living at all opportunities. We set up reminders for ourselves and our children of God's standards, sacrifice, forgiveness, and love. Easy, right? Not by a long shot. Even just recognizing the teachable moments can be difficult. Actually setting aside our adult agenda to seize those moments is doubly as hard. And yet, this is what parents are called to. Not a great paying job to provide the latest gadgets; not well-rounded, activity exhausted children; not even the most rigorous education. We are to be teaching our children about the one true God at every opportunity!
4. God tells us why. Verses 10-12 continue in this way:
"And when the LORD your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you- with great and good cities that you did not build, and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant- and when you eat and are full, then take care lest you forget the LORD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery."
Did you catch it? We are to do these things, lest we "forget the LORD". The church has been crying out about the mass exodus of teens and young adults within the Christian Church in recent years. These yount people have forgotten the Lord. And sure, there are plenty of reasons why that is, but I have to wonder if maybe the main reason is because the parents (in general) haven't been diligent in teaching their children as Deuteronomy 6 instructs.
There's one other reason embedded in these verses of why we are to live this way. We are to teach our children because God has saved us. Sometimes we say this so glibbly. So let me shout it: GOD HAS SAVED US!!! This is huge! This is the biggest thing! The one amazing fact that we should never tire of shouting from the rooftops! God has saved us! In these verses, it refers specifically to Egypt, but wouldn't you agree that God has also saved us (you and me) from slavery to sin? Jesus' incredible sacrifice on the cross should so alter our lives that it's the one thing we tell our children about again and again. It should be the thing we speak of with the most passion, the most fervency, the most awe. It should be the one thing we are teaching our children day in and day out so that they and we won't forget. The why of these verses is so astonishingly amazing, that it should drive us to speak of it in every conversation.
Are you catching on? Are you starting to see the importance of these verses? Really reflecting on these verses over the past several years has transformed my view of and approach to parenting. It prioritizes our activities, our education, our desires as a family. It is the challenge I need on those days when I just want to hide in the closet. It is the encouragement I long for when looking at the daunting task ahead of me as I raise my children. And it is the reminder of the great saving work that God has done in my own life.
It is my calling as a mother.