The Bible study the kids and I go to in town finished today for the summer. Since last September, the women have been studying the books of 1 and 2 Kings, as well as the prophets who spoke during those times. I had read through that part of Scripture, but I learned a lot and was so encouraged by actually studying it and discussing it with our small group.
Because 3 out of 4 people at home call me "Mama", at the moment, much of my identity is connected to my role as a mother. As a mother, I was encouraged to see how God related to His children in these books.
Before the people had entered into the land, God's message to His children was clear: love Me and obey Me and things will go well for you. If you turn away from Me, things will not go well, ultimately ending with this: "The Lord will bring you and your king, whom you shall set over you, to a nation which neither you nor your father have known, there you shall serve other gods, wood and stone." (See Deuteronomy 28).
This reminds me as a mother to keep my thoughts and expectations clear, especially with my young children. I remember talking to Erik about this last year when Catherine was 2 and Camille was 1: "There are so many rules and things that I have to remember... how on earth can I expect Catherine and Camille to remember?" He simply replied (I LOVE this about Erik), "The only thing you have to remember and that they have to remember is that they must obey you."
Apart from the reigns of a few kings who "did right in the sight of the Lord" (Joash, Hezekiah, and Josiah), this time period was bleak, grim, and dark. King after king "did evil in the sight of the Lord... and made Israel sin." Time and time again, God's people turned away from Him, following after worthless gods. With that, their value system went down the drain; injustice and violence increased. Truly what a man sows, that he also reaps. Things didn't go well for them.
What Erik and I say to our children and expect from them isn't a power-driven show. We want them to know and do what's right because we love them. We aren't perfect, but we have been given a charge by God to teach our children His ways. We do this in a spirit of humility, as ones under authority ourselves.
God loved His people too much to dismiss or overlook their disobedience. After all, their obedience was for His glory and their good. "The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent word to them again and again by His messengers, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place; but they continually mocked the messengers of God, despised His words and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people, until their was no remedy" 2 Chronicles 36:15 - 16. Just as God had said, the nation was given into the hands of the Babylonians.
This was encouraging to me as a mother. God clearly stated His expectations to His children, lovingly reminded them, followed through with the consequences. His dealings weren't arbitrary or what I call "heat"-driven (punishment out of a parent's anger). No tricks, manipulation, or fickleness. His dealings were clear, patient, and intentional. I want to be this way in my dealings with our children.
Discipline wasn't popular. It didn't feel good. But it was for their good. Discipline isn't fun for me or for our children. I need to remember that is for our children's good, especially when I get weary of disobedience and would rather look the other way.
The prophet Jeremiah sent a message to these Babylonian exiles. "When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place" (Jeremiah 29:10 See also through to verse 14). There is the promise of hope and of restoration. While there is love in every part of parenting our children, even in the midst of discipline, we want them to know we receive them, love them, and have forgiven them. We can move on and grow together.
Studying God's word was so encouraging to me this year and I am looking forward to returning September!
Not tired of reading yet? A little more of my thoughts about our local CBS:
One thing I appreciate about CBS is that the women are from all over the community, from different walks of life, and at different places spiritually. The common denominator is we are all studying God's word together. Politics or denominations aren't the focus; God's word is.
Another thing I appreciate is the program for children. Our children aren't simply babysat for a few hours each Tuesday. Their lives are seen as valuable and their time at Bible study is constructive, meaningful, and fun. Catherine and Camille love their teachers and classes - they run ahead of me into their classes each Tuesday. They have learned so much this year and we are so grateful for their teachers who have loved them! For me, I have been able to focus in class knowing that our children are cared for, invested in, and loved.
So, if you're interested in studying God's word in your community and want a place for your kids to be invested in, too, check out Community Bible Study to find a group for you! I know there are other good Bible study groups out there, too; CBS is what is available in our area right now and I am thankful for it. In my opinion, even and ESPECIALLY as a busy mother, if you can get involved in a good Bible study in your area, it is worthwhile, refreshing, and encouraging.