If you thought I might have been exaggerating a while ago when I said I was a technophobe out of the sixteenth century, get this: I’ve just learned to drive, at the age of… well, thirty-nine (approximately).
And a great blessing it was, too, in the cold of winter, and after I had my surgery. But it’s got me thinking again (not good for staying on the road and avoiding telephone poles). I once heard a Kiwi preacher say that the “when thou walkest by the way” in Deuteronomy 6 could be taken as meaning, in this day and age, “when thou drivest in thine car.” Well, maybe it could, back in the old days when the kids (however many) all piled into the back of the rumbling old Morris and leaned over the seat talking to Dad as he tore along at about 20 miles an hour. For me now, maneouvering a hefty people-mover with children strapped into carseats somewhere in the distant rear, it’s a different matter.
And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
The first time we went for a walk again, when I was getting better, I was immediately struck by the quality of the conversation. Not that we were discoursing eloquently on philosophy and literature – indeed, I seemed to be spending most of the time telling the children not to do things – but that was what struck me. When we’re in the car, I am in quite a vulnerable position, often having to rely on food, entertainment and travel games to keep everyone quiet while I avoid those telephone poles. But when we’re walking, there is time for the careful, detailed correction and training that children often need.
There is a certain reluctance nowadays to dwell on anything negative. Not that that’s entirely a bad thing. I’ve heard it said that a negative statement has three times the force of a positive one, and therefore we should try to say three times as many positive things to our children as negative ones. That makes a lot of sense to me. The trouble is, if you hardly ever see your children, there is nowhere near enough time to correct everything that needs to be corrected and get in enough encouragement as well. (By the way, I count reading aloud to your children as positive input; reading to them for two hours a day is basic education.) And walking around together, too, is priceless opportunity to share your thoughts, tell anecdotes and stories, and talk about God and his ways – as it’s supposed to be. I’m going back to it.