Saturday, August 18, 2012

Hear O Israel

Lately I have been in panic mode.

Maybe having the second little made me realize that this is actually happening. I am a mother. I have two little souls under my care who are totally dependent on me. I am a grown-up.

Really??? When did that happen???

Oh my. And so I have become a blog hopper. An online sermon enthusiast. An article searcher. A parenting book critic. Yes, even a Pinterest junkie. All in the name of figuring out what in the world I am doing, finding ideas on how to do it better, and hoping to goodness that I am not screwing up my kids forever.

And truthfully, at the end of the day I feel like I am drowning in a sea of helpful and not-so-helpful advice, techniques, and ideas. The ideal of perfect motherhood is out of my reach. My two year old is still throwing tantrums. My six month old is still not sleeping through the night. I must be the worst mother in the world.

But one recent, blessed day, for just a moment…I stopped. I stopped worrying about whether I should be more strict with our schedule, whether time-out or spanking or loss of possession is the best approach in which situation, whether I should feel guilty when Dora the Explorer allows me 25 minutes of tranquility. I stopped thinking about what everyone else is saying about what it means to be a godly parent, and I thought, what does God say about it?

And here is what He said.

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 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.

The thing is, I have read this before, probably a gazillion times. Or at least 384 times, no joking. I could paraphrase it for you without even looking:

“Teach your children to love the Lord with all of their heart/soul/strength. Talk about the Lord all the time, throughout every day. The end.”

But wait.

As I read this passage in the middle of my one quiet moment, I realized that the “Love the Lord your God” part was not directed toward the children.

It was directed toward me.

(YOU) love the Lord your God with all YOUR heart and with all YOUR soul and with all YOUR strength. These commandments that I give to you today are to be on YOUR hearts.

I know this. I do. I absolutely know that the one goal in my Christian walk is to love the Lord with everything that I am and have.  I know this is the greatest commandment. But I had never seen it as it applied to my parenting before.

I have been so caught up in technique. How to discipline. How to teach. How to train. But it hit me that really, that is not where my focus needs to be.

My number one objective is not to figure out the most effective way to teach my children to love the Lord. No, my number one aim is to love the Lord my God.

And if I can accomplish that one goal, the rest will fall into place.

If I love the Lord my God with all of my heart, then I will begin to bear the fruits of the Spirit in my relationship with my children. I will be more patient, more loving, more kind. And maybe my children will be impressed by the mighty transforming work of the Spirit in my life.

If I love the Lord my God with all of my soul, then I will stop seeking fulfillment in my husband’s affection, my children’s performance, my community’s acknowledgement, and instead find my soul’s satisfaction in the Living Water. And maybe my children will be impressed by the great sufficiency of our Creator and Sustainer to give us our identity, our purpose, our peace.

If I love the Lord my God with all of my strength, then no sacrifice will be too great as I serve my children. And maybe my children will be impressed by the humility of Christ to reach down to us in our great need and lay His life down in a much more perfect way than I ever could for my children.

If I am loving the Lord and meditating on His commandments, then I will be able to impress those great commandments (which are summed up in the one commandment of love) on my children as we walk by the way, and as we sit and rise and lie down.

And at the end of the day, if I am loving the Lord my God with all that I am, the checklist that I started the day with may not be completed. The laundry may or may not be done. The table may or may not have been cleaned. But I can guarantee that I will have done more things that will matter in eternity, and my children will be more impressed with the greatness of God than with the “greatness” of a mother who appears to have it all together.

Will I still read the blogs and listen to the sermons? Of course. In a multitude of counselors there is great wisdom, and I certainly need as much wisdom as I can get. Will I still have to grapple with how to apply loving, gospel-centered discipline that will meet each of my kids individually where they are? Of course. But how freeing it is to know that when all is said and done, it all comes down to the same thing…the greatest commandment…the deepest joy. To love the Lord my God.