Our house feels really chaotic a lot. Especially during suppertime. It's kind of amazing how a day can be moving along [relatively] smoothly and then suppertime hits and BAM! everything goes haywire. Kids smash their heads, spill their milk, gag on food, fall off chairs, have to pee, and bang then their heads again. It's crazy.
It's very obvious that we have an enemy of our souls who doesn't want our souls to be fed with the vulnerability, intimacy, and authenticity that comes through the family dinner table. (Did you know that consistent family meals are the #1 way to deter high risk activity amongst teens?) I've written about this before. Our enemy is most certainly working hard at tearing down the family dinner table in America (and succeeding, sadly).
But even more, we have an enemy that doesn't want our families doing family devotions. In past blogs I've occasionally mentioned little snippets about our family devotional time at supper...enough so that I've gotten several questions from friends about the specifics of how we actually carry that out.
So, I thought I'd just write a blog about the endeavor of family devotions...mostly because I'd like to shatter any myths out there that family devotions are calm and quiet "kumbaya" type moments. They aren't.
I think many families get intimidated at the idea of doing family devos because they think their children could never sit quietly enough for a family devotional time, so therefore they are reluctant to take on this endeavor. This was us for several years. But a little over a year ago we decided to just forge ahead and make it happen, and I can tell you this: You're right. Your kids absolutely will not sit quietly or still. Your toddlers will throw their plates. Your boys will continue to fall off their chairs. Your girls will still act dramatic. It will be total chaos.
But Jesus has proven Himself bigger than our chaos.
Awhile back, a friend gave Paul and I this family Bible story book. It has worked well for us because it's the entire Bible paraphrased into approximately 5-minute story chunks, without missing a beat or watering down anything. This well-written, family-friendly format has been a sweet blessing for us. After we're done eating we read the short story, we ask a few questions, and then someone says a quick prayer to close...something that is a "take-away" from the lesson. That's it. It's short and sweet. Only 5-7 minutes.
But it isn't calm. A steady routine and a great family Bible haven't taken the chaos out of the process.
But that's okay. (You'll have to remind yourself that it's okay every single day).
While we're reading every single night, I assure you someone falls off a chair. At least once. Someone has to pee. Someone (the two-year-old) yells "Mama Done! Mama Done! ALL DONE!!" as loudly as he can the entire time. Or, he yells, "Hi Daddy! Hi Daddy! DADDY!!!" while Daddy is two feet away trying to read.
Someone spills their milk. Someone (the two-year-old) throws his fork. At least two kids ask for milk refills. Someone interrupts and asks what's for dessert in the middle of reading. Lately the two-year-old (also the family clown) has been putting carrots and snap peas on his head and staring at the rest of us with mischievous eyes in the middle of devos...waiting to see if we will laugh, ignore, or reprimand. I know I should either ignore or reprimand, but seriously, the boy is so funny I usually can't hold in my laughter. Paul tries harder to hold in his laughter but after I start laughing he can't hold it in either. But it's holy laughter, I'm sure, right?
All that in five minutes. Chaos. Every Night.
Most nights, family Bible time feels like something we just "get through" more than a highly spiritual time, to be honest. It seldom feels spiritual at all. Paul and I have this saying "And now all the wheels are coming off" to describe those moments when all craziness has hit the fan. We reach that moment every night.
The other night Evelyn requested a "true or false" question after the reading, and right then Griffin knocked his chair down with a huge smash to the floor. Then the crying. Paul said under his breath, "And now the wheels have definitely fallen off" to which Evelyn exclaimed, "FALSE! No wheels have actually fallen off here, Dad." (Guess which parent busted out laughing?)
Chaos I tell you. All the wheels completely off.
Yet, when we ask them questions after we've read, it's so clear that they learn amidst the chaos! They learn a lot. It's like God's Word is ALIVE or something! Isaiah 55 says that God's Word always accomplishes its purpose, and that's true even in the chaos of family devotions.
And, our kids love it. Even if Paul and I tried to skip devos, our kids would never let us. It's our suppertime ritual now, and they cling to it. One time when I had the flu and couldn't muster up the energy to read, and Paul was at work, Evelyn insisted on reading the night's story because she refused to have dinner without Bible time. So big sister read to her younger siblings and asked questions afterward. Priceless.
So therefore all the chaos is worth it.
Somehow our kids learn great truths of the Bible even when the two-year-old is falling out of his chair and throwing forks and doing food-balancing acts. Amazing. (Allowing our kids to eat ice cream while we read helps keep them a little more quiet...so you might need to increase your ice cream budget to make this successful).
And the four-year-old's question is usually asked in such a way that every answer is Jesus...but friends, if my boy learns nothing other than the fact that Jesus really is the answer to all things, well then Amen. So be it.
The other night after the Israelites had yet again worshiped false gods, Lillian (she's six, friends) said, "How about we pray that God will help us not worship false gods?" Ummm....yes, my dear. We should pray that...actually we should pray that Every.Single.Day. Go for it. So she did.
Seriously, our kids teach us so much. Sometimes all Paul and I think is "Oh good we made it through again..." and then our kids pull out this big Bible truth from the story that we hadn't even caught. It's so cool. And so humbling.
All summer we were in the desert with the Israelites. Friends, I can't tell you how sweet it's been since Sunday School just started a few weeks ago, to see how my four-year-old boy has been so excited to act out the Israelites in Sunday School after he's spent all summer getting to know them. Our family has walked with the Israelites through the desert, and our quilted table runner has been the Promised Land as our forks march through the desert (across the table) to that table runner. The Israelites have become our friends at the dinner table.
Tonight we read about Joshua's farewell speech before he died when he said, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord..." And then my daughter closed us in a prayer that in our house we would always serve the Lord. I mean, really. The stuff they spit out.
Good stuff, friends. Granted, the two-year-old had a quesadilla on the top of his head the whole time, but it was good nonetheless.
So, friends, if you're struggling to figure out how to make family devotions a part of your daily family life, I would say just start and forge ahead and don't quit. It won't be peaceful, and it won't be calm, and it likely won't feel orderly or even very spiritual. Your kids will probably teach you more than you teach them. You are going to want to give up. You are going to think it isn't worth the effort.
But it is, friends. The truths of the Bible will draw your hearts together as a family as you draw near to God. (Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you...James 4:7-8). You are definitely going to have to resist the devil in this endeavor...he doesn't want you to do it and he will make it hard. Resist him. He will flee.
Let it be imperfect. Let it be messy. Let it be chaotic. But keep on, friend. Nothing could be more worth it.
Jesus is bigger than our chaos.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.