The Word Is Very Near To You: The Divine Wisdom Of Parents
The wisest parents I know raise their children according to a clear moral framework, and they also teach their children to follow their intuition. As I’ve studied the Old Testament, I’ve realized that God essentially does the same.
The book of Deuteronomy—one of the major books in the Torah and in the Old Testament—consists of Moses speaking to his people, the Israelites. It’s his farewell speech, if you will. For a very long time, he’s led them through the wilderness, away from slavery in Egypt and toward the Promised Land. They are almost there, but Moses is old and about to die. Before the Israelites enter the Promised Land without him, Moses details at length God’s laws as God shared them with him.
Through Moses, God makes it abundantly clear that the Israelites should obey God’s commandments. He does this through repetition and lots of examples of how badly things will go for the people if they don’t. (Yeesh.)
Then, near the end of his long speech, there’s this incredible moment in which Moses comforts the Israelites. Remember, these are former slaves who have been on the go for what has seemed like forever, and they’re about to lose their faithful leader. They’re exhausted, filthy, and scared.
Then Moses tells them:
Isn’t that beautiful?
There’s so much here for parents to reflect on, most notably that God is speaking to us, too—the readers of the book of Deuteronomy (“this book of the law”).
Once that has sunk in, it’s worth considering that maybe God is so insistent we obey him because he knows that without yielding and surrendering, we cannot give up our own misguided notions of who we are and what we need to do in the world.
As parents, we’re already a step ahead in terms of yielding and surrendering. Being a parent is in itself an act of surrender. We’ve surrendered our child to the world, so to speak. In spite of how badly we know things can go here, we’ve created this new life, and we’ve said: “Here you go!”
But it’s not a full surrender, is it? We’re not capable of completely surrendering our child(ren) to the world. Still, as with anything else, God wants us to try as hard as we can. He asks that “you turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” Here, obedience seems directly related to trust. And if we trust God with “all [our] heart and with all [our] soul,” then maybe we can allow ourselves to live as if these words from Julian of Norwich are true: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”
If you trust the notion that “all manner of things shall be well,” at least as much as you can, you begin to carry around a lot less anxiety. And as a result you project a lot less anxiety onto your kids.
After all, anxiety stems at least in part from our desire to fully control our lives; we move through the world trying to be in control, but deep down we know we cannot be. This must be why God demands that we yield—that we surrender. Because if we do our best to surrender, we will be closer to free. Not only that, God says, we will prosper. (“For the LORD will again take delight in prospering you.”) And for parents, we create a pattern: if we prosper, then we certainly create conditions in which our kids can do so, too.
In terms of the law God wants us to follow, He makes it clear that it’s not too difficult or abstract to understand. (The 10 Commandments are pretty straightforward, no?) The Commandments themselves are one kind of divine wisdom. But there’s another kind mentioned at the very end of the passage above.
Moses tell us “the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.”
I love this. God is basically saying: “Divine wisdom is within you. Trust that it’s there for you to understand.” It’s a comforting call to trust the voice that’s deepest within us—a voice that many of us have learned to silence in favor of the voices of other people.
But like the act of surrendering, if we trust the inner wisdom that God tells us is there, then we become capable of making truly inspired decisions for ourselves and on behalf of our families.
The wise parents I mentioned at the beginning have internalized all of this, and they’re teaching (or have taught) their children how to do the same. And how wonderful that this wisdom is available—“very near,” in fact—for all of us to share, especially with those who depend on us the most.