I have seven children who love to eat. We eat by day, and we would eat by night if we were allowed to. Keeping up with the appetites makes me feel not unlike the man on the old coal-powered train whose job it was to never stop shoveling coal. Some of my children are the fire that runs extra hot. Blaire, for instance, is a major breakfast eater, and cereal is a special thrill around here. I don’t know if it was just the knowledge of the Cheerios in the house that caused it, but the other week she got up so early it was still dark out, and while we were in bed, she ate two bowls of cheerios in the dark, went back to bed, and woke up at the normal time thinking she had only dreamed of Cheerios. Two bowls of the precious Cheerios, shot down in the dark and forgotten completely.
Because there are so many children, even a very moderate pace of telling me they are hungry once or twice a day each adds up to what feels like a constant air horn of hunger in my ear. Moses doesn’t know how to say hungry, but does know how to gesture winningly at the counter/ fridge/ cupboard and say (with the very cutest fat cheeks) “More?? More?? More??” WE ARE HUNGRY is the message. What have you planned to feed us, Mom? Were you thinking you should make popcorn? What about cookies?! Let’s talk the next meal! Is it coming soon? How long will it be Mom, do you think?!
For whatever reason this has elevated a bit at my house recently – and something struck me about it. Here they are with these physical appetites that can’t get full, and that is only a picture of the spiritual hunger that every one of these precious kids has. Feeding them actual food takes so much work, and planning, and learning, and trying, and changing the routine, and the same amount of work should be going into the feeding of spiritual food too. It makes perfect sense to me that the passage in Ephesians 6 says to bring up your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Nurturing the spirit in the same way you nurture the body, which is to say all day every day, and even in the dark of the night sometimes too.
It is a beautiful thing that our children generally come and get us with their needs. Help me mom, I’m hungry. Help me mom, she’s having a bad attitude. Help me mom, I am being selfish. Help me mom, I want some milk. Help me – I need to be nurtured, and I need to be admonished. Give me the food – the hot bread you just made, and the gentle correction about the attitude. Give me all you have, and let me grow. And this isn’t beautiful because we always have the solutions on standby. It is beautiful in part because we don’t. The baby birds in the nest with their loud mouths open, the frantic mother goes out looking for God to provide. The thing is that He always does. There is no time that we go out looking for the nurture of the Lord and come back with nothing.
I don’t know about you but this thought just gave me so much encouragement. They need things all the time. And they need things that I cannot always give at the first sign of the need. Sometimes I don’t have a clue what they should eat either physically or spiritually. But either way, the need is mine to fill. These are my children to feed, and God does not leave my pantry bare.
So yes, sometimes my children get the spiritual nourishment that is the equivalent of the last third of a bag of frozen peas with a scrambled egg. It happens. Sometimes I feel like I must have forgotten to go to the spiritual grocery store in a timely manner also – because instead of feeling calm and prepared, the spiritual needs of my children are throwing me off balance. I don’t want them to be spiritually hungry right now because I did not anticipate this moment and have not prepared. All the spiritual meat is in the freezer. Something tells me that the stale corner of a saltine in the bottom of the sleeve won’t make a difference one way or another.
“Therefore you shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.” – Deuteronomy 11:18-19
So let’s stock up our spiritual cupboards. Let’s think about how to feed these things to our children in the car, and when we are grabbing a few things at the store. When we are cleaning the toilets and when we are folding the laundry. It requires that we as mothers lay up the words of God like they were so much free food being handed out. Because that is exactly what they are. And when our children are overwhelming us with their needs, thank the Lord that He has the answers.