On Their Terms

I wonder if I have misunderstood Deuteronomy 6? I wonder if, for the past fifteen years or so, I have missed a key point in Moses’ plea for family devotions? I wonder if my assumption that it was all up to me to have a plan and be intentional and “pastor” my children set me up for defeat and failure over and over and over again?

Maybe it is because I am a pastor.

Maybe it is because my children can smell their dad’s “pastor-mode” from a mile away.

Maybe it is because my kids are super weird.

Maybe it is because their dad is not the sharpest crayon in the box.

I don’t know. But ever since my children were little, yours truly has failed at family devotions. That’s right. I stink at leading family devos. Oh, it’s not for lack of trying. More often than not, however, trying to corral my family and have a revival-like experience with God together is about like trying to get an Auburn fan to wear hounds-tooth. Not. Gonna. Happen.

I would read Deuteronomy 6. I would learn from other resources. I would preach on it. I would teach on it. I would listen to other pastors who practiced it. But it just didn’t seem to work. I would, and still do on occasion, beat myself up and consider the family worship thing a complete failure and waste of time.

Until. . .

COVID-19.

School shut down.

Team sports cancelled.

Meeting at a church building postponed.

No large gatherings.

Going to friends’ houses and spending the night put on hold.

Work from home.

Dad home on Sunday morning’s.

Everyone at home, throughout the day and night.

No live sports on TV.

Guess what happened? Uninterrupted, non-rushed, distraction-less time with my children. It wasn’t planned. It wasn’t scheduled. One day we were all running in 7,582 different directions. The next day we were all home. Tons of saving on gas. Tons of at-home toilet paper usage.

But I noticed something. Faith talks began to happen with my kids. Spiritual conversations emerged. Biblical wisdom was sought after. Truth became a desire. What I had been longing for was happening! What I had fought so hard for and failed at began to spring up out of nowhere!

And here’s the thing: I didn’t do anything. I hadn’t planned on it. I hadn’t prepared a lesson. I had not thought out what we would be talking about that day/night. It just happened.

Know how?

Around the supper table.

In the car.

On the front porch.

On the back porch.

On a walk.

Cooking breakfast.

Folding clothes.

Going to Home Depot.

Picking up Chuy’s. Again. (I mean, right?)

Again, I didn’t plan it. I didn’t force it. I didn’t have a lesson ready. But it happened. A statement would be made. A question would be asked. A comment would be thrown out. Before I knew it, an ever-so-brief, yet ever-so-rich spiritual discussion happened.

How? What was the key? What’s the kicker? Two things. The first happened because of the second.

First, it happened on their terms. They brought it up. They asked the question. They made the comment. They threw out a statement. It wasn’t dad’s agenda. It was what was going on in their head.

Second, it happened because we were together. A lot. Not rushed. Unhurried. Relaxed. In each other’s presence. Attention.

Not scarfing down a Chick-Fil-A sandwich (not that there is any other way, mind you, but you know what I mean) on the way to practice. Not lacing up cleats. Not finishing homework. Not rushing to church from a rehearsal. Not rushing from church to get to bed to be ready for the next day.

Spiritual and biblical conversations with my children, I am discovering, are the rare nuggets of gold that are found when it is on their terms in the culture of unhurried presence. Maybe, just maybe, this is what Moses meant in Deuteronomy 6. I don’t need to have a Sunday School lesson prepared. I just need to be on the lookout and ready and present and attentive to add to the discussion when the time comes.

Am I saying family devotions are a waste of time? By no means! If your family can sit and enjoy and benefit from a time of studying the Bible together – do it!!! Please. I guess my point here is that the pressure valve can be released a bit. Be present with your kids. When the world goes back to “normal” (whenever and whatever that will be) be careful what you commit yourself to. Let’s all learn from this “gift” God has given us.

Hear your child in the other room? Why don’t you see if they want to ride with you to pick up Chuy’s? Who knows. God may just prompt a spiritual conversation over queso. I mean, right?