“Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.”
This is simply a fragment of a verse which is part of the Old Testament law. The context is lots of things that the people of God are to do differently than surrounding people. It is what sets them apart.
Now some of you may think this is an odd choice for a devotional verse, but I think that there is a lot of wonderful things to glean from it. This command is representative of something that God did not want His people doing. This verse is about a twisting of things. Do not take that which is meant to give life and use it as an instrument of death.
As a principle, this is excessively applicable to our everyday mothering. What are the things that you want to give your children? What are the things that you want to give them in order to make them thrive? And how might you be using those things to cook them? Instead of giving them a strong work ethic with all the chores you give them, are you giving them a hatred of home? A great education is something that we delight to give our children, because it gives them freedom, and strength, and all kinds of things that are meant for life. But there are countless ways to take something that is for life, and make it into part of a long slow cooking.
Think of discipline, think of family worship, think of catechisms, think of chores, of friendships, of talking with your kids, of dinner time. All of these things are made for life, and can be used for death. The fundamental difference is fairly simple: the milk is life giving when it is taken on the inside. But when it is applied to the outside, it only causes death.
A mother’s love is a sweet thing. It is made for life – it is made for comfort, for joy, for encouragement. But how easy is it for a mother’s love to become a great oppression? How easy is it to turn into someone who won’t stop fixing hair and worrying over skinned knees? How easy is it to let your interest in your children’s health become the thing that keeps them from ever having a healthy experience of being sick, and miserable, and tough? Are you making yourself into an instrument of death? Are you making yourself into the instrument that kills off your son’s toughness? Your daughter’s laughter? Are you so critical that instead of feeding and building up, you are constantly raising the temperature and smothering your children in flashcards?
Of course the goal is not to leave your children unchallenged. The goal is not to expect little. The goal is for a thriving, strong, kicking life. And of course the answer here is not to pry their mouths open and force a bunch of things down. The answer is grace. We can pray that God will give us wisdom as we educate and train and talk with our children. We can pray that God will give our children a ravenous appetite for the things of life, and that He will make us a great gift to them.
And we can pray that when we see our children like so many little birds in a nest – mouths open, squawking at us with pointy little beaks, demanding more, and more, and more – we can pray that we will see this as a great mercy. That God has given us children who hunger. When they want to talk, need to talk, want to know, need to know, want to learn, need to learn – that is life! That is a sign of great things. I know, as I am sure you do – that that is often the time when you want to go shut yourself in the bathroom. But when you do – pray for this. Pray that God will give you all the food you need. That God will give you overwhelming gladness for their hunger, and all the food you need to satisfy it.