Teach Your Children Well
I'm in Chicago this week to celebrate the wedding of our dear friends' daughter. We came early to help with some of the preparations and to spend some time with them before festivities begin this weekend.
As I was driving through the city with my youngest son, I began pointing out landmarks, showing him where his mother and I (along with his oldest brother) lived downtown.
I showed him the park we used to frequent, where we got our Christmas trees every year, and as we drove I talked to him about our visits to Grant Park, Navy Pier, Lincoln Park Zoo, the hospital where his brother, our middle son was born.
Through the rear view mirror, I could see his face was filled with the most thoughtful expression. I realized he was processing the fact that there was a history of our family that he shared but had not experienced. He didn't know exactly how, but Chicago was a part of him.
As I watched my son, I thought about the way families pass these things down to children and grandchildren. I wondered if one day he would drive his own children through the streets of Chicago, telling them about his family, and tell them of his own trips there.
That moment with my son got me thinking about how faith is passed down to children, and what can be done to ensure the next generations receive it well, and (even more importantly) make it their own.
Deuteronomy 6:4-8 contains an exhortation concerning the passing of faith experiences and traditions from one generation to the next. It reads:
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 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.
At the heart of this exhortation is the story of God's great love and rescue of God's people from slavery. It is the story of how God led them through the wilderness to the land God had promised them. That story is what must get passed down, the passage teaches us. It's what must be retained more than anything else.
Throughout the passing of faith from one generation to the next, some of the doctrines, dogmas and pointless traditions, even some of the rules and regulations, often get lost along the way... and that's perfectly all right.
But the experience of God, the milestones of family life lived together in shared faith, the stories of rescue, redemption, love, forgiveness, mercy and grace---those are the things that must be shared, passed down and retained.
So, tell your stories of experiencing God to your children, and grandchildren. Tell them to your nieces and nephews. Tell them to the children in your community of faith. Tell them that even though they may not have your experiences, they share them in a way, and one day they will have their own stories of God to tell.
May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.