>Talk About The Story: A follow-up to Mark Matlock

>Mark Matlock’s book, Real World Parents: Christian Parenting for Families Living in the Real World is a helpful reminder to parents about what it takes to form children who love the Lord. Mark always has a ton of insightful things to say, and this book about the family was no different. One of the things that impressed me most was his reminder to call families to live in The Story that God has been writing and is writing. All of us are busy living out stories – journeys, experiences, and attempts to make meaning of our lives and the world we occupy. All of these stories are part of a larger Story, what philosophers and theologians call a meta-narrative. The Bible offers such a meta-narrative that is rooted in the very heart of God himself.

As we think about and respond to the call to help our children to live out their stories, it’s imperative that we intentionally remind them, teach them, and lead them to see how their story must surrender to and be intertwined with God’s Story. In fact, this is the very thing that God commands in Deuteronomy 6:20-25,

When your son asks you in time to come, ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the LORD our God has commanded you?’ then you shall say to your son, ‘We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt. And the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. And the LORD showed signs and wonders, great and grievous, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and all his household, before our eyes. And he brought us out from there, that he might bring us in and give us the land that he swore to give to our fathers. And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day. And it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to do all this commandment before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us.’

I know this is a familiar passage to many of you concluding the Shema (“Hear, O Israel, the Lord Your God is One…”). The people of God are to live in covenantal faithfulness to the Lord. They are to tell their children when they rise and in their coming and going. This much is well-known and a foundational principle for many a family ministry, children’s ministry, or student ministry. But notice the ending. After the stipulations of the covenant are rehearsed, Moses says that there will be a time when the sons will ask, “what does this mean?” The parents are to respond not by explaining the theological principle of a monotheistic God, but to tell them the STORY of REDEMPTION (we were slaves, YHWH brought us out, and this is what happened). The Israelites were to tell The Story that defined their stories.

Later Judaic interpretations and applications of this passage (most notably in the Passover Seder found in the Haggadah) expand on this further. There is virtually a script which parents are to follow when their children ask about the meaning of the various parts of the Passover meal. And guess what? They all have to do with The Story of redemption.

So the point is this – don’t forget The Story. Tie everything back to the Gospel for your children. Here are some ways that I try to live out all of Deut 6 in my home (also refer to the LeaderTalk for Mark’s great examples).

1. Take the time to point out the glory of God in mundane, everyday things. Sometimes my most incredible conversations with my son are over how amazing bugs are. I will often ask him, “who made this bug? why?” I’ll stop the car to take in a glorious sunset or stand by the window to watch the rain fall reminding my son in my own wonder that God is indeed great!

2. Take advantage of strategic points during the church year. If you’re not leading your family through intentional devotions at least during Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter, you are missing a huge opportunity to talk about the Story.

3. Constantly ask questions. This is almost catechismal, but I think there’s a reason that throughout her history, the Church relied on catechisms (question and answer-type confirmation learning) to disciple their young. I will often ask questions to my son about what is the cross? Why did God make the earth? Why is it important to share? How did David kill Goliath? etc. Simple questions can often ingrain a reminder of the Story.

4. Live out the Story. Our children will reflect our adherence to the Story. Sadly, the Israelites failed to pass on the Story to their children, instead choosing to live in covenantal unfaithfulness. God forbid that we should spend our careers proclaiming the Story to our students and in our churches, but not in our home!

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