We were sitting around a table - 12 of us, six couples - at a boutique cheese maker. Lunch had been delicious , the view was spectacular, and the conversation full of laughs. We were talking about the future, our futures, when one of the group said that their life, their future, had changed for good. They then told us about a family drama that they were being drawn into, one that likely ended in divorce, and that, circumstances being what they were, would require considerable help from them for the rest of their years. It was a privilege to be part of the ongoing conversation, as long standing friends openly and honestly talked of their hopes, dreams - and concerns. - for their families, their children. Children in particular.
The common thread around children was that ‘you do your best’ and then ‘they will be what they will be’.
The Bible talks about this in the book of Proverbs. “Point your kids in the right direction— when they’re old they won’t be lost.” Proverbs 22:6 MSG
That is worth thinking about. What is it that we do, or can do, for children when they are young that will point them in the right direction for their whole lives? And what is the right direction?
Taking the last first, Solomon was writing to the Jewish nation, and his implicit understanding would have been that the right direction was to follow Yahweh - the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This meant keeping His commandments, observing the Festivals as laid out in the Torah, and not falling into the trap of following other ‘gods’ by offering sacrifices to idols made of wood or stone. In short, to follow the living God, and not become deluded like the nations around them.
I suspect there is a clue to answer the first question - what can we do - sitting in the middle of the last paragraph. No, not the keeping the commandments, although that is surely of merit. No, I think it is the bit about observing the Festivals.
In practice this meant taking time out of a busy life making sure there was enough food to stop, and take a series of prescribed actions and prayers that focused the participants on the God who is the provider of life itself. A very simple and profound set of behaviours - habits if you will - of the faith.
What are the habits that we can pass on to our children? Habits that will - daily - provide the opportunity for re-calibration towards what is actually real and what is not? Habits that provide the opportunity to think beyond the pressing needs of the day to the God of the cosmos who has always been and always will be, and who is graciously ‘standing by’ waiting for our attention?
One of the simplest is saying grace - giving thanks to God for the food that is in front of us at every meal. Breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Yes, lunch! Even at work Especially at work. What better way is there for us, as adults, to use the simple opportunity of the midday meal to take a pause, re-calibrate, acknowledge that we are in God’s hands not our own, and to re-set for an afternoon of walking and talking with God while at work?
Then, at the evening meal, when we give thanks together with our families, we are bringing a day of relationship with God, of ups and downs. We are acknowledging His hand and graciousness in all things. Modelling a daily walk with our Heavenly Father.
Might part of ‘pointing your kids in the right direction’ be for each of us to say grace, not only at breakfast and dinner, but also at lunch time? Especially at work?
Festival One Director