Right now I’m a student taking some classes to learn more about matters such as the Christian story, Christian beliefs, and Christian practices.
The way I’m learning these things is not uncommon to the way that all of America’s education programs are having to proceed during the COVID-19 outbreak. I’m learning this subject material mostly in isolation, through my online program.
And I don’t know about you, but oftentimes I love learning all on my own. I love getting a few hours to myself just to sink into that full-focus-on-one-topic mode. I love sitting with and ingesting content on my own before processing it with others.
But I also sometimes dream about taking in my school content in different ways- like in the presence of others.
This has me thinking a lot about how communal my learning was as a child. I couldn’t have been expected to go in my room and pore over books on a given subject by myself. The task of receiving content and material for the sake of reading had to largely come from others. I wasn’t even assigned much homework to accomplish on my own until the later years of elementary school.
So I’ve been trying to remember what was the most common and simple way I learned as a child- and the thing that keeps coming to my mind is my mother’s voice.
I remember many different intonations of my mother’s voice.
I remember the dramatic change in her voice as she went from getting on to my siblings and I to answering the phone, because her southern charm would seem to come out of nowhere.
I remember her prayer voice at night before we went to bed or at the dinner table.
I remember half-listening to her conversations, mostly because I was impatient and hungry, as she talked to our church family after Sunday worship gatherings. She always had me place my hand on her hip instead of interrupting these conversations in an attempt to show me that her voice had a president over mine in that moment.
I remember her singing along to Point of Grace songs like “Keep The Candle Burning” and “How You Live” on our many car rides together- of which I was totally convinced that she was just as good of a singer as them and could be a famous musician if she wanted to.
I remember her interjections during movies as she thoughtfully interpreted a major theme or character motive that I hadn’t been able to catch on my own.
I remember her distinct handwriting style that I was always so envious of.
But most of all I nostalgically remember the tone her voice took when she would read anything aloud to us. It was different from her normal speaking voice, but just as comforting. She often read books at night like Sheila Walsh’s In Search of The Great White Tiger, C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia series, and D.W. Murray’s Majesty: The Sorcerer and the Saint.
What’s interesting is that I don’t think I really was able to pay attention to much of what she read from those books- I was mostly a visual learner. But somehow I was usually able to retain the main characters and plot line from most of what she read to me.
When I was in middle school, my mother eventually ended up going back to school, also through an online program, to become a licensed professional counselor. It’s no surprise to me that God continues to use her voice on a daily basis as a means of his common grace- to bring healing to many people.
But today I still hold that my siblings and I are the ones who have been most impacted through God’s use of her voice. I am especially reminded of the impact with which just her reading voice left in my life.
But just as my mom’s voice stuck with me all of these years, so too is our church families’ voice so important for our spiritual formation- especially when we gather to read aloud God’s own words together. In fact, how much more transformative is God’s Word in his children’s lives than their biological parents’.
Here are three reasons why the church, and especially parents, shouldn’t overlook the power of simply reading God’s word aloud to our children:
1. The Word of God is Alive and Active
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.Hebrews 4:12 ESV
It’s so interesting that God’s word- given through the Holy Spirit, angels, the prophets, apostles, and eye-witnesses of the gospel- is in itself alive and active! Many times, we have only to provide the means of projecting it over ourselves and the ones we love with just our voices, and by its nature and the workings of the Holy Spirit, it has the capability to do the rest of the work. It can even cut deep within our hearts- talk about sanctification!
2. The Word of God is Infallible
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.Isaiah 55:11 ESV
The infallible nature of God’s Word means that it’s successful in ALL that it sets out to accomplish. This personally makes me feel better about reading it aloud with others even when I don’t think I will be able to provide an accurate interpretation of what it means. This gives me the freedom and accessibility to frequently jump right in to reading aloud rather than always feeling the need to prepare beforehand.
3. The Word of God has Traditionally Been Read Aloud To Shape God’s People
Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.1 Timothy 4:13 ESV
Here Paul gives this powerful advice to his disciple Timothy who is learning to pastor a church that often gets misled away from God’s Truth. But this isn’t a new practice; the people of God have been reading aloud the Scriptures together since the beginning. In fact, the Old Testament gives us many examples of God’s people gathering together to hear the recorded word of God read over them, with a miraculous result of experiencing deep flourishing as a people rooted in their identity. (Check out this video by the Bible Project on the Biblical theme of public Scripture reading)
So while there is a time when parents are called to preach and teach the gospel to their children, just like there is a time when all Christians are called to sit under teaching and preaching of God’s word, there is also a time to simply read it aloud. Similarly, while there is a time for our children to develop the discipline to engage with the Scriptures on their own, there is also a God-given time to simply use the power of our maternal and paternal voices to speak God’s word over them. This ability to sit under God’s Word together is a gift to the entire church. It is a gift for all spiritual mothers and fathers to use freely.
So no matter how old your own kids are, it’s not too late to find time to read God’s word together. Don’t know where to start? Maybe pick a narrative-rich book like the gospels or Acts. Or passages like the Psalms, often sung by God’s people aloud together in worship.
Wherever you start, I pray that you feel freed to just engage your family as you are, with nothing but the powerful Word of God, the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit, and your own voice that will most certainly have more impact on your children than you could ever imagine.