Deuteronomy 11:1-7 (NIV)Thankfully, I’ve never been enslaved in Egypt. Chances are pretty good I never will be. Nor is it likely I will wander the wilderness for forty years, but I suppose anything’s possible. But still I can take away at least two lessons from this part of Deuteronomy, which I’ve found gets something of a bad rap among it’s Old Testament colleagues.
Love the Lord your God and keep his requirements, his decrees, his laws and his commands always. Remember today that your children were not the ones who saw and experienced the discipline of the Lord your God: his majesty, his mighty hand, his outstretched arm; the signs he performed and the things he did in the heart of Egypt, both to Pharaoh king of Egypt and to his whole country; what he did to the Egyptian army, to its horses and chariots, how he overwhelmed them with the waters of the Red Sea as they were pursuing you, and how the Lord brought lasting ruin on them. It was not your children who saw what he did for you in the wilderness until you arrived at this place, and what he did to Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab the Reubenite, when the earth opened its mouth right in the middle of all Israel and swallowed them up with their households, their tents and every living thing that belonged to them. But it was your own eyes that saw all these great things the Lord has done.
The first lesson is the importance of repeating the stories of the faithful throughout the generations. I’ll admit it takes a substantial leap of faith to accept the “Bible stories” we have today are faithfully rendered versions of eyewitness accounts going back thousands of years. But if people of faith don’t have any connection to the history of their own tradition, then in what exactly do they believe? For Christians, especially, it is important to understand everything that led up to God’s decision to send Jesus to live as a human.
The second lesson, a bit more micro than macro, is how this might affect me and my kids individually — or any parent and offspring, for that matter. By glossing over the “works cited” portion of God’s persuasive essay, it boils down thusly: “Remember today that your children were not the ones who saw and experienced the discipline of the Lord your God … It was not your children who saw what he did for you … But it was your own eyes that saw all these great things the Lord has done.”
God did not deliver me personally from Egypt. But I have felt a divine influence in my life, felt guided by the Lord at times, comforted at others, and am fairly certain I am in a far better place in life because of faith and the people I am fortunate to call my friends and family. There were plenty of chances for me to chart a different course, but nothing else ever felt as right, and I won’t consider that to be coincidental.
But that’s me and my life. My kids don’t know how all of this played out in my life, and they won’t unless I tell them. Ideally they’ll also have their own stories worth repeating some day, but I understand it starts with me. And I accept that responsibility as part of the job of raising children. I can focus on keeping them healthy and out of prison while graduating high school on time, but to me that’s the bare minimum. I feel called to do more — and not just to raise “good kids,” but to raise kids who have a deep understanding of how and why to be a good citizen of the planet and a good member of humanity.
No big, new revelations here tonight, but it’s nice every so often to get poked in the side and told again what should already be obvious. “It was not your children who saw … it was your own eyes.” So get out there and tell them your story! I needed the reminder.
A prayer for June 2:
Lord, today I am thankful for a weekend spent sharing the experiences of youth with my kids. It was a perfect reminder that nothing is as important as the time I have to help them grow into strong young men. I thank you also for reminding me how important it is to be not just a good role model, but to feel comfortable talking to them about how I see the world. Please give me the strength to share with them honestly, the patience to hear and respond to their questions and the wisdom to speak in words they will understand and use to grow in your love. Amen.