Lighting the Fire

"As I mused, the fire burned" (Psalm 39:3)

I had a conversation this week with Jim VanEerden. Conversations with this dear brother are never uneventful. He has a delightful habit of summing up the world in a sentence or a quote, often from his beloved Chesterton or Lewis! The conversation in question had to do with the issue of educating teenage boys, in particular how to motivate them to read and to learn. Apathy is such a debilitating problem amongst the rising generation, and I wanted to hear Jim’s thoughts on how to fix it. He said, when it comes to educating teenagers, the thing you have to remember is that it’s not so much about filling a bucket, it is about lighting a fire!”

This word stuck with me all week and it begs the question: How can this be done? A number of suggestions seem apropos—

  1. We must worship with our children— and I don’t mean we should merely stand beside them at Church and sing from the Trinity Hymnal. Public worship certainly has its place, but what I am getting at here is our ability (and willingness) to talk warmly and passionately about God and Christ to our children. Conversations like the one Paul had with the Philippians in Chapter 3 of his epistle. Excitement is catching; it naturally spreads through the generations. How many families do we know who are Clemson or Georgia football fans? How did this familial movement begin? I guarantee it began with one man’s excitement about this or that particular team’s success on the ballfield. As is so often the case, when it comes to encouraging others to worship, you can’t give away what you haven’t got!
  2. Confess your sin— few things dampen a young person’s passion than discovering unacknowledged inconsistency, not to mention downright hypocrisy in the life of the one trying to teach him. Our children need to see that we are real sinners who make real mistakes and who need a real Savior. We fail Christ (and them) everyday, and they need to hear us say it. They need to hear us express the gratitude of a soul that savors the glory of Christ, our Savior.
  3. Share Your Bible secrets with your children— When the Bible stirs your soul, resolve, as Jack Campbell likes to say, “Never be a dead end to truth.” God has given these blessings to you, now give them away to your children. Children, boys in particular, need to hear their fathers get excited about reading the Bible and hearing it being preached. They need to hear you say, “That sermon touched me here, here, and here!” When was the last time your son heard you say, “When I mused, the fire burned?”
  4. Talk to your children  about your struggles and how, by faith, you reach through the pain, the doubt, and the fear to lay hold of the promises of God.
  5. Read the book of nature with wonder before your children. Chesterton once remarked, ‘There is no shortage of wonders in the world, only of wonderment!’ Creation is your Father’s workshop and it reveals His glory. Get outside with your children and look around at the world out doors. Marvel at the rolling thunder, the stars above, the beauty of the dawn chorus, the iridescent plumage of the humming bird! Watch one of David Attenborough’s marvelous nature documentaries— they really are wonders to behold. Creation is designed to lead us by the hand to worship (Romans 1:18ff). 

6. Read good books and poetry to and with your children. The heart has a reason that reason cannot tell. I know of few things that will take me to that place of wonderment than a good book, or a good sacred poem. These writings have a way to unlock the heart and to teach it to feel!