By Jamie Willis
Rhythm. Some people have it. Other’s don’t. When it comes to music, I am most definitely in the latter category. Since it’s hard to clap on beat, I just do my best to “make a joyful noise to the Lord” (Psalm 98:4), even if others don’t see it (or rather, hear it) that way. But, while rhythm with music has never been a strong suit for me, I have worked hard to develop some other forms of rhythm in my life and I bet you’ve done the same.
Rhythm is defined as “a regular, repeated pattern of sounds, movements, events or activities.” Hopefully, you have developed some form of rhythm when it comes to personal hygiene: Do you brush your teeth on a regular basis? Are you showering daily? Weekly? Dare I ask…monthly? Do you use deodorant on any kind of consistent basis? These are all part of a rhythm you have developed over time, even if you haven’t thought about it in those terms. I bet you also have some type of rhythm when it comes to work, school, meals, exercise or even watching your favorite TV show. Most of us are creatures of habit and, whether intentionally or unintentionally, we do many parts of our life in some sort of rhythm.
Rhythm is actually something the Bible describes when it comes to passing on spiritual truth to our kids. Listen to the words of Moses as he addressed the nation of Israel: “Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9).
Since the truth about God and His Word is of utmost importance both for us and our children, Moses knew that it was crucial for families to bring this into the regular rhythm of their busy lives. And yes, they were busy back then, too. There wasn’t a grocery store on every corner or 1-click buying from Amazon, so people had to work hard just to provide for their daily food and the needs of their family. Just like us, they were busy, even if it was a different kind of busy. So, Moses encouraged them to teach the truths about God and His Word as they went about their day-to-day lives. They were to look for “teachable moments” and talk about the commands of God and “repeat them again and again” to their children: at home, on the road, in the morning and at bed time. Over time and with intentionality, this became incorporated into the daily rhythm of family life.
Today in 2016, these same principles still apply. Nothing has changed about a parent’s responsibility to be the primary spiritual influencer of their kids. The role of the church is to partner with parents by coming alongside them to equip and encourage them while being another voice that will speak truth into the life of children and teenagers.
In our family, learning to develop this type of rhythm has definitely been a process; we’re still figuring things out as we go, and we’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way! But we’re trying to be intentional about looking for opportunities to leverage those teachable moments with our 3 children. This can be done by pointing out spiritual truth in day-to-day life, asking good questions (e.g. How have you seen God at work today?) and praying with your children and for them about issues they’re struggling with or concerns they have for the people around them. You can also look for ways to remind them of their identity in Christ and point them to the gospel (yes, even as believers we need to continually be reminded of the gospel and how much we need Jesus!).
In addition to these more “informal, as you go” opportunities, our family tries to sit down together 2-3 times a week to open the Word of God together. This usually takes place at the dining room table following dinner and lasts no more than 10 minutes. Sometimes we’ve read from a devotion book or used a Bible App on our phone to work through one of the family devo plans (the free YouVersion Bible App is excellent). Some of our devo’s have gone, well while others have led to blank stares or even the occasional eye-rolling. When that happens, we just roll with it, then start something new next time.
Right now, we’re reading straight from the book of Philippians a little bit at a time (the NLT translation is a great one to use with your kids). We’ve realized that a whole chapter is a lot to digest in one sitting so we read about 10-12 verses each time, then ask 2 questions: What did you learn? What should we do about it? It’s been fun to see our kids participate, and we’ve loved hearing their insights and questions. Our hope for them is that this is all just part of the normal rhythm of growing up in our home.
So, when it comes to music, some people have rhythm while others (like myself) do not. But, when it comes to imparting spiritual truth to the next generation, all of us can develop a rhythm in our homes with our children. Your rhythm probably won’t look like mine and that’s OK. Look back at Deuteronomy 6 and begin to develop your own rhythm in your home. What if you started by just asking your kids some questions or even how you can pray more intentionally for them? Or, what if you decided to gather your family for a short devotion once a week, every other week or once a month and then opened the Word of God together? The book of Philippians would be a great place to start. Or Psalms, Proverbs or maybe the Gospel of Mark if you want to read through the life of Jesus. Whatever it is, try something and begin developing some type of rhythm for intentionally investing in the spiritual life of your family. It will be exciting to see how God will use this both in your life and the life of your kids. Our Lakewood staff is available to help with ideas, resources or prayer and encouragement, so please let us know how we can serve your family.