"Feed my sheep" were the words that Jesus spoke to Peter that early morning on the beach. Surprising, since there were no sheep around and Peter's livelihood was fishing. None the less astounding was the fact that these words were spoken just weeks after Peter had denied that he even knew Jesus. Certainly they were not the words Peter would have expected to hear, especially since they were preceded by the probing question, "Do you love me?" The Bible only records Peter's words, but one can imagine the pain and remorse Peter must have felt when he humbly answered, "Yes, Lord, you know I love you." Gone was the swagger and bravado of earlier days. (Mk. 14:29) No longer was he boldly boasting of what he would do for Christ. What remained was a new humility and a simple love for Christ. "Feed my sheep," Jesus repeated.
"Feed my sheep" are the same words, Jesus would say to us as parents today. Just three simple words yet they are filled with volumes of meaning. It is so easy as our children grow to let the demands of life and busyness of ordinary days crowd out the eternal. The starting place is the little word "my". Do we really understand whose sheep they are? God loans us these precious little treasures and within weeks our hearts are so deeply bonded that we forget whose sheep they ultimately are... God's . Do I feel the weight of all that means? Am I really willing to acknowledge that they belong to Him? It is only by standing in the light of that truth that I am willing to adequately embrace the responsibility to feed his sheep.
However, even if I have accepted the truth that my children really belong to God, I can still fail to feed the sheep has entrusted into my (and my husband's) care. In my efforts to teach my children math and reading, and get them to piano and basketball lessons, am I adequately weighing the responsibility to nurture their souls? Have I really embraced the fact that it doesn't it profit a man to gain the whole world and yet lose his soul? While I need to provide my children with skills to function in this world, developing those skills must not be my top priority. I must hear the words of Jesus, "Feed my sheep".
In this era of prepackaged food, whether it be animal feed or macaroni and cheese, food preparation is incredibly easy but in the time of Christ' earthly ministry, there was nothing easy about it. Every kitchen task was done by hand and every meal was painstakingly prepared. Today we have so many devotional books at our fingertips, it is easy to just eat "fast food" every day and feed the same to our family. But God promises his richest blessing on the reading of one book, the Bible. The smallest child can learn to be still while listening to the Scriptures and there are things we can do to help them along. I remember when my children were very young, I salvaged some extra Bible reading time with them by reading to them while they were eating. I would serve all their food, quickly grab my Bible and read between spilled glasses of milk and second helpings. This is not to say that other Christian books cannot be helpful but even these should be carefully selected. When we find one of those rare books that encourage us to faith and a deeper walk with God, they too can feed our children's souls and spur them on to God. Missionary biographies have been a wonderful help because many of those dear saints from long ago demonstrated a life given to God and spilled out for others.
As our children grow and their minds develop, our discussions about the Word of God can also deepen and widen. Walking through life, their disappointments, fears, and sorrows can be met with truths of the Bible and promises from God's Word. And gently applying God's Word to those sinful responses that we see in their lives rounds out the spiritual meal preparation that we owe to God's little sheep.
Just considering the challenge of the task of nurturing our children while carrying out all the responsibilities we have as home schooling mothers can overwhelm us. The last thing we want is one more ball that we have to keep in the air. Perhaps you used to challenge your children more spiritually but lately it has gone on the back burner. Looking at the time you have lost can be very discouraging. We had intended to do better but where have the years gone? As uncomfortable as it is this humble, helpless posture is really a very healthy one. Like Peter we find ourselves broken and needy, stripped of all our great plans of what we wanted to do for God. Instead we are left with only the confidence that the living God loves us, sinful as we often are, and that we love Him. From what better place to feed His sheep than from this humble, lowly place? It is exactly in this place that God can guide and lead us as we come to believe that He knows even more than we do how our children's souls are to be well fed and tenderly cared for.
Isaiah 55:11 He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.
By Kristen Martin