Christina Fox received her Master’s Degree in Counseling from Palm Beach Atlantic University. She writes for a number of Christian ministries and publications including Desiring God and The Gospel Coalition. She is the author of A Heart Set Free: A Journey Through the Psalms of Lament (Christian Focus, 2016). You can find her at www.christinafox.com, @christinarfox and www.Facebook.com/
You never quite know how you sound until you hear your own children repeat something you've said. I recently heard my oldest instruct my youngest, using the same phrases and tone of voice I use when I'm irritated. And it didn't sound pretty. It was convicting and it should be because it told me that what is in my heart isn't so pretty either.
When I first began homeschooling, I came across this quote from Henry Ward Beecher, "A mother's heart is the child's classroom." This statement gave me pause as I considered what it meant. The primary location of my children's education did not take place in our schoolroom. It was not found in the curriculum I bought, or in all the educational activities, clubs, and opportunities I provided for them. Rather, they learn the most out of the overflow of my own heart.
The scary follow up question was, just what were my children learning in the classroom of my heart? What did they learn from the class titled, "How to Respond When Nothing Goes Your Way?" What lessons did they learn each day from the course, "How to Love and Serve When No One Loves and Serves You Back?" Or what did they learn in the one called "What to do When You Are Worried?" And then there were all those foundational courses: "Living the Gospel in all of Life," "Depending on Christ for All Things" and "Living Your Purpose: Glorifying and Enjoying God." What did they learn from me there?
While the Beecher quote is just that, a quote, the Bible does tell us that what is in our heart is very important. It directs the course of our day and our life. Jesus said that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34). Proverbs instructs us to “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23).
One of the most clear instructions for the duties of parents comes from Deuteronomy 6: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 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" (vs. 4-9). Here we are instructed to teach our children about God, all the time and everywhere. We are to teach them God's word, about who God is and what he has done. And because we are so forgetful, we need constant reminders. These are lessons that have to be taught, repeated, practiced, and recited over and over. For the Israelites, they literally attached reminders of God's word to their persons so that they would never forget it.
When it comes to the classroom of the heart, this passage tells us that as parents, we must love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and might and we must have God's word imprinted on our heart. This instruction is given before the command to teach God's word to our children. This is key for us as mother's. It is out of the overflow of our hearts that we teach our children. The question is, what is in our hearts?
Because we cannot teach our children God's word if it is not in our hearts to begin with.
While there are many useful tools to use in training and educating our children, we can't forget the impact that our own heart's have on our children. Deuteronomy 6 instructs us as parents to keep God's word in our heart. It is God's word that changes our hearts, transforming us by the power of his Spirit. The more we know it, believe it, trust it, and live by it, the more it overflows out of our heart and impacts the lives and hearts of our children.
May we as mothers take a heart inventory today and ask ourselves, what are our children learning in the classroom of our hearts?