The One Parenting Habit that Changes Everything

Words are always dessert.

I was sixteen when I first I ate dinner at his house and when the plates were cleaned, forks laid down, when it’d seem commonplace to nod thanks to the cook and push back the chairs, his family bowed their heads and his Father opened a Bible.

It was thick and tattered, had a multitude of bookmarks sticking out from all the pages, and he read from that Scripture in an even thicker Dutch accent. Chapter finished, he’d close the book, look around the table, choose one of the sons to close the meal the way it began, in a word of prayer.

And then, only then, would the chairs would push away, the souls fed.

It’s the way he was raised, the way his parents had been raised back in the homeland. You never leave the table without chewing the Real Bread. Even if there were cows to milk and you had to run, or you were late for prayer meeting at the church, or you had company for dinner. If you sat down to eat, you never left the table without eating Words.

Because the food served on plates, isn’t it the rotting and dead?

Food itself is dead, it is life that has died and it must be kept in refrigerators like a corpse,” offers theologian Alexander Schmemann.

The food served on plates is but a a corpse, the dead food, and when we partake of it, we eat of the dying world. But when we eat Scripture, we eat the only real food, for Christ is Living Bread and eating He who sustains all things, sustains body and soul. When we eat His Words, we eat of the eternal world.

Man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD.” ~ Deu. 8:3

The Word of God is what is living and active, Word that can revive the hungry and when we eat the Book, the cells in the body, they rejuvenate, enlivened with the true strength. Broken and starving, I need that.

Eating Scripture three times a day, it’s the one spiritual habit that has most changed us because a body, famished, needs to eat and there’s only one way to eat life.

When we married, woke together in a home that we were to make, he first hung a shelf by the kitchen table: a place to keep Food that didn’t need a fridge.

This way of eating, the way all his siblings ate now in their own families, it was new to me, a new way of eating, living, being, and it came strange at first, awkward. But it was his quiet way: he never got up from a without opening the Bible.

Babies came and toddlers sat at the table. If they ate from a spoon, they too ate the sweet of Scripture, even just a verse or two. Not long, not arduous… but Words, the rich and the divine, our dessert.

Babies cried and toddlers squirmed and company came and we had appointments and there were places to go and work to be done, but Farmer Husband gently taught by simple habits, everyday rhythms, that if we’ve eaten the dead food, we eat the Living Food and it’s a menu that becomes second nature, like putting a pitcher of water always on the table — its not hard to eat or drink — What is our appetite for and what satisfies our hunger?

Babies became children, the toddlers teens, and the shelf is now a box with a Bible for each one, and we pass them out at the end of each meal and Farmer Husband, he quietly, humbly, takes us through the Bible, a few verses at a time, a book at a time; breakfast, lunch and supper, we swallow morsels.

Every family happily eats uniquely, menus and routines and foods that suit their lifestyle, their tastes….

For us here…

6 Ways to Develop the Habit of Daily Family Bible Reading

  1. We read 10-15 verses at a time, chronologically through a book of the Bible, less with little children, more with older. We want to savor, chew long.
  2.  We give each person their own Bible, their own serving, so each person can see Words, what they’re eating.
  3. We read the Words aloud together, eat like a communal meal. Like we help little ones eat with the fork, we help little ones with words — oh how they smile, reading Scripture on their own…
  4. We discuss, serve the Words around. Children explain meaning, offer summaries, ask questions. Parents taste conviction, confess, repent.
  5. We meditate, listen to the Spirit, let each quietly chew the words
  6. We close in prayer, voices around the table, sometimes too with a hymn

It seems long. It isn’t.

It seems good. It is — but only for us. But there are many ways for a family to eat Living Words and no one right way. As gathering in each family’s home is a beautiful one-of-a-kind experience, so each family eats Words in their own special, creative way.

It seems perfect. It isn’t. Days when I sadly want to rush, when children tussle over Bibles (and they are all the same!), when we read too fast and a little cries and no one pays attention. But some meals too are simply edible, hardly memorable, but we don’t stop eating. We try the dish again or we change the way we eat or we just smile and set the table with candles next time.

Always, we eat again.

We eat again.

Then He said to me, “Son of man, eat what you find; eat this scroll

So I opened my mouth, and He fed me this scroll.

He said to me, “Son of man, feed your stomach and fill your body with this scroll which I am giving you.”

Then I ate it, and it was sweet as honey in my mouth.

~Ez. 3:1-3

… a repost from the archives as we were away yesterday…

Related — Initial Post, the storied one I prefer, of our family reading Scripture at the close of each meal: How to Read the Bible: Eat this Book

Related Posts on Ways to Read the Bible

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Photos: eating real food
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