You shall put these words of mine in your heart and soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and fix them as an emblem on your forehead. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise.
The longer I live, the more it seems that I miss my parents and the more I enjoy watching our children parent our grandchildren. Parenting is a wondrous calling, almost divine, as God takes pleasure in comparing Himself to fathers and mothers. As I think about parenting in today’s culture, I cannot help but remember a story that the great pulpiteer, Peter Marshall, liked to tell. He titled the story, “The Keeper of the Spring.” A shortened version of Rev. Marshall’s story goes like this:
Once upon a time, in a village high in the Alps, the village counsel hired a young man to clear debris from pools of water that fed a lovely spring flowing through their village. With faithful, silent regularity the man patrolled the cliffs and crags around the village, removing branches and leaves and wiping silt away from the flow of water. In time, the village became popular for vacationers treated to lovely views from inns and cafes. Little farms flourished as the land was irrigated naturally. The fresh flowing spring was a delight to people far and wide.
But the years came and went when one evening the village counsel met for its semi-annual meeting. As counsel-members reviewed the budget, one member’s eye was caught by a salary paid to an obscure Keeper of the Spring. “Who is this man?” the counsel-member sneered. “Why do we keep him on year after year? Who ever sees him? For all we know, he isn’t doing us any good!” Then, by a unanimous vote, the village counsel dispensed with the Keeper of the Spring.
Days passed and nothing seemed to change, but by early autumn the trees began to shed their leaves. Small branches snapped and fell into pools of water hindering the flow. One afternoon a villager noticed yellowish brown tint in the spring; just a few days later the water was darker. Within a week a slimy film covered sections of the water and a foul smell was detected. The wheel of the village mill turned slower, finally grinding to a halt. Swans left and the tourists with them. Clammy fingers of sickness and disease reached deep into the village.
The village counsel convened an emergency meeting and acknowledged the mistake of dismissing the Keeper of the Spring. They begged him to return to his former happy labor. Soon the spring sparkled again with freshness and the millwheel turned as of old. Everyone was happy and going on their way as the Keeper of the Spring was back doing his job.
It was at this point in telling the story, that the preacher inside Peter Marshall kicked in to make his point:
“So, I shall make my tribute a plea for Keepers of the Springs, who will be faithful to their tasks. There never has been a time when there was greater need for Keepers of the Springs, or when there were more polluted springs to be cleansed. If the home fails, the country is doomed. The breakdown of home life and influence will mark the breakdown of the nation. If the Keepers of the Springs desert their posts or are unfaithful to their responsibilities the future outlook of this country is bleak indeed. It is not an easy task – nor is it a popular one, but it must be done for the sake of the children.” (Mr. Jones, Meet the Master: Sermons and Prayers of Peter Marshall)
Peter Marshall was right! Parenting has never been an easy task or a popular one, but it must be done for the children’s sake! For our nation’s sake!
In today’s scripture Moses is calling for a generation to be ‘Keepers of the Spring’ by first having God’s Word within them in their own “heart and soul”, and then teaching God’s Word to their children. They are to talk about the truths of God’s Word in the everydayness of life: “when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise.” Moses knew that the children needed it. The nation needed it.
And so does our nation need it. Let us as parents and grandparents dare to be ‘Keepers of the Spring.’ Let’s first make sure that we have God’s Word in our hearts and souls and then talk about it to our children.
A Fellow Traveler,