In my one-year-Bible reading plan, I just went through Deuteronomy, and I was struck by this beautiful prayer of Moses in chapter 32.
“May my teaching drop as the rain,
my speech distill as the dew,
like gentle rain upon the tender grass,
and like showers upon the herb.
For I will proclaim the name of the Lord;
ascribe greatness to our God!”
This was the introduction to Moses’ song, his swan song, just before God instructed him to go up to Mount Nebo to look at the Promised Land before he died. Moses told the people that he was well aware of their rebellious tendencies. He knew they were going to walk away from God after he died. He also knew that because of the provoking, constant murmuring of the people, he himself had lost it, lost the privilege of entering Canaan with them.
If anyone ever had a reason to be aggravated beyond all endurance, Moses did. And yet that was how he wished to teach.
I think of my life… of the daily temptations to drop words like icy pellets of sleet instead of “gentle rain on tender grass”. The very repetition of child training tends to make me think that maybe if I repeat my admonishments a little louder, the children will catch on. Thus “Close the door,” becomes “HOW MANY TIMES have I told you to SHUT THE DOOR when you go out?”
I tell you, I am so convicted of excusing my sin and impatience as somehow inevitable because “when will they ever learn?” .
I believe that the power of Jesus within me is more than sufficient to exercise kindness in the face of the most exasperating circumstances. My children know when they have messed up. Sometimes I catch that expression in their eyes, “Oh, no, now I have really done it. I wonder what Mama is going to say.” It stops me in my tracks as I think of the tender grass. It helps me to stop, breathe, pray, then calmly deal with the toilet bowl full of potatoes or the broken China teacups (yes, plural) or the fight over the favorite library book. I wish I could say that I always remember. I am making Moses’ prayer my own, and it is helping!
I love the part where he says, “I… will ascribe greatness to our God.” When my child knows he has done something dreadfully annoying, and his mama doesn’t yell, but uses the law of kindness... that is ascribing greatness to God! Children are smart enough to know when there is something supernatural going on in Mom’s life.
I am not suggesting that we become weak kneed, feeble parents who do not discipline or instruct our children. Here is an example of a recent little issue in our home.
I found myself increasingly frustrated with needing to remind my sons, daily, to fix their beds and hang up their PJ’s. Now I know the Bible says, “Line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, there a little…” but this seemed a bit much. They are plenty big enough to have this as a habit that doesn’t need reminding. I realized that I had trained them to depend on my nagging reminders whenever I walked through their room to do laundry in the basement. The unpleasantness was not their fault.
I prayed for inspiration on how to deal with this in a redemptive way. You know, with “speech distilled like dew”. Doesn’t that just sound like such a calm and peaceful way to teach a child? 🙂 I think God gave me some rather good ideas. One was a reward at the end of the week if they remembered to tidy their room every single day. The other was a consequence of no snack at our daily break time if they forgot that morning. I really could hardly believe how well this worked. Both of them made it to the big reward at the end of the week. (A dollar is a big reward to a small boy. 🙂 )
I can certainly appreciate living without being scoldy, my speech seasoned with grace instead. I find that habits of speech are extremely hard to break. It has to be a purposeful dependance on Someone much bigger than I am. Anybody with me in praying the Prayer of the Teacher?