“Dad, it’s really quiet out here. I love it when it’s quiet. I don’t like noisy places.”
My five-year-old daughter is just like me. She doesn’t like noise. She doesn’t like crowds. She doesn’t like to hustle and bustle. She likes to get away, to a quiet place, a place where she can think, a place where she can relax, a place where she can breathe and just be.
Never mind the fact that she spent the next twenty minutes talking about how quiet it was and how much she liked it that way. (I guess learning to keep quiet is another lesson.)
We were out fishing, and Castine was basking in the glow of just having caught her first two fish, a couple half pound large-mouth bass. Lucy, my almost three-year-old, had also caught her first fish, a good-sized catfish that would have been perfect for eating if we’d been prepared. We stayed out there for two hours, and I never got a bite. “I’m sorry you didn’t catch a fish,” Cas told me. I wasn’t. My two girls caught their first fish each, and that was more than satisfying to me.
Castine has become my little shadow the last few months. We’ve always been close, and she goes pretty much wherever I go, more out of obligation than desire. But since about March she’s developed a real interest in the things that interest me, and I couldn’t be happier. I think it was the bees that really started it.
At Castine’s preschool, parents are asked to bring snacks for the whole class every few weeks. Back in March, my wife brought in a snack that included honey from our backyard bees. This inspired a conversation among her friends on the playground, and Castine was instantly acknowledged as the resident bee expert. She even stood up and gave an impromptu lecture to her class about bees, taking questions from the audience and everything. She came home that day wanting to know everything about bees.
In April I picked up a couple of new packages of bees to install in my hives. Before they could go in my hive, though, they had to go to her school, where I gave my own little lecture on honeybees and took questions from the audience. After installing the package in my backyard, every day Cas would ask how the bees were doing. I finally asked if she wanted her own bee suit, and she said yes. Since getting it for her, I haven’t gone into our hive by myself. She’s right by my side, pulling frames and inspecting the bees and even scooping up handfuls of clustered bees and putting them back into the hive. She is the best little beekeeper I know.
Parenting is a daunting task. Not only do we have the responsibility of keeping these two little humans alive, but we have to teach them how to be good people, too. We have to teach them what is important, what matters and what doesn’t, and how to distinguish the two. We have to teach them how to enjoy the good and improve the bad. We have to teach them to control themselves, because there’s nothing else in this world that they can control.
We spend a lot of words on these lessons. But all the words we say to them are not nearly as important as the lessons we unintentionally teach by the way we live our lives.
In Deuteronomy 6, God instructs the Israelites, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” This, Jesus tells us, is the greatest commandment. So great, in fact, that God gives instructions for how this commandment is to be passed on: “Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)
What I take from this is that this commandment is not for religious observation only. Loving the Lord our God is not a ritualized devotion, but a daily lived out reality. It is done, and therefore taught, in our homes, in our streets, in our workplaces and marketplaces and schools, and everywhere else, from the time we rise in the morning until we close our eyes in sleep.
As a pastor, I’m regularly challenged to make sure the church has something to offer our kids. Sunday school classes, vacation Bible school, youth group meetings, Children’s Sunday, summer camp, Pioneer Club, Sonshine Kids and more, it’s all out there in our churches for our kids. But do you think it’s enough?
I sure don’t.
I’m convinced that what our kids need more than all these special programs and special places is parents and grandparents, uncles and aunts, brothers and sisters and family and friends who love the Lord daily, in ways that our kids can see and emulate. Our kids don’t need churches that are geared toward them; our kids need godly examples.
Sometimes you might not feel like you are really getting through to your kids, but I promise you are. And sometimes you might not feel like you are being watched by your kids, but I promise you are.
That morning when my girls caught their first fish it was supposed to start storming. Sure enough, it started to rain, just a little bit at first. I asked Cas if she was ready to go in. “Maybe just one or two more casts,” she said.
I wonder how many times I’ve said that exact same thing.