“Hear, O Israel. The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9).
FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) — This Old Testament passage, known to those of the Jewish faith as the “Shema,” was spoken by Moses to the children of Israel as they were about to enter the Promised Land. It is a great passage for parents and contains some of my favorite verses of instruction for teaching and training my children. But don’t stop reading if you are not a mom, because those are not the verses I am focusing on right now, and what I have to say applies to you, too.
The last two sentences describe actions that are not familiar to most of us. If you were to visit the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem you would see Jewish men praying, and you might see some of them wearing phylacteries. Phylacteries are strips of leather that are wound around the arm and hand, and around the head. They are attached to small square leather boxes that contain portions of Scripture. One box would be visible on the forehead, the other would be on the upper arm. These are what the verses above are describing.
“So what does that have to do with me?” you may be thinking.
Moms, I’ll start with you. There are days in the life of a mother, especially a mother of preschoolers, that seem filled with tasks that are repeated over and over again. You change diapers, wash dishes, fold laundry, change diapers, wipe runny noses, wash little hands, change diapers, pick up toys, fix meals, clean the bathroom, change diapers, and on and on. You may hear from others that you lead a boring life of an endless repetition of menial tasks. Some days you might even start to believe that.
When I have days like that, I try to remember God’s directive to the Israelites, to bind His Scriptures to their hands. I may not actually see straps wound around my fingers and hands, but I can imagine them there as I use my hands to care for those I love the most, those whom God has entrusted to me to nurture and raise for His glory. I think of Ecclesiastes 9:10a which tells me, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might;” and I begin to find glory and even joy in the mundane, as I serve God by serving my family, caring for their most basic needs with my hands.
The Jewish man who wears the straps on his hands sees them as he prays, just as I “see” the straps as I use my hands to serve God. But he does not see the box of Scriptures bound on his forehead. Instead, it is seen by all who look on his face, and is a testimony to his desire to obey God.
In the same way, others may not see a box of verses on my forehead when they look at me, but what do they see?
What do my children see? Do they see an angry mom, an impatient mom, a sad and frustrated mom? Or do they see a face that reflects the peace and joy that only Jesus can give? Do they see God’s love for them on my face in the midst of a hectic day filled with all the seemingly trivial tasks, endlessly repeated, but so necessary to the care of a family? Now the truth is that while moms are often told that their days contain mindless tasks, the same can be said about almost any job in the world. They all have some element of necessary but mind-numbing requirements. Ask any nurse, teacher, pilot, engineer, bus driver or student.
So for those of you reading this who are not moms, here is your challenge: As you go about your work each day and you use your hands for paperwork, or checklists, or whatever it is that you wish you didn’t have to do, learn to find the joy of serving God even in the repetitious or mundane tasks. Strive to complete them with excellence, “with your might,” for God’s glory. And when those with whom you work look on your face, will they see an angry co-worker, an impatient co-worker, a sad and frustrated co-worker, or will they see a face that reflects the love and joy that only Jesus can give, a face filled with God’s peace, even in the midst of a hectic day?
One final thought. The last verse describes what is known as a mezuzah—a small box or cylinder containing Scripture, which is fastened to the doorposts of a home. All who enter that home see it and know that those who live there value Scripture and seek to obey God’s laws.
We may not have Scriptures attached to our doorposts, but do all who enter our homes discover that those who live in them love Jesus and are trying to order their lives around his Word?
This applies to all of us, married or single, with or without children, living in a mansion or in a tiny apartment. Our homes should be a place of peace and joy, a refuge for our families first of all, and then for all others who walk through our doors. May we allow God to so order our homes, our families, and our lives, that even our dwellings become a testimony to His grace and salvation.
Elizabeth Owens is in her 18th year of homeschooling and is the mother of four. Her husband is Waylan Owens, dean of the school of church and family ministries at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. This column first appeared at BiblicalWoman.org, a blog of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).