And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28-31)
Well, to the modern mind, this command is a bit nebulous. It sounds extreme, too, like something we’d do if only we lived alone on a mountaintop. But, how do we focus our lives so fully on the Lord when we have kids to raise and bills to pay?
I had heard this verse many times during my saved life, but I only came to dwell on it in more recent years. A good friend of mine brought it to my attention as we sat and talked about kids and homeschooling. She had been exploring biblical homeschooling inspired by The Heart of Wisdom and had decided to create a goal sheet for her older kids based on these verses. She wanted them to think about their lives in these terms:
- Heart – growing in their relationship with God
- Soul – growing gifts and talents; things that are personally inspirational and meaningful
- Mind – intellectual development
- Body – health and physical well-being
- Service – loving ones neighbor by serving others
I was intrigued by this idea and wanted to use it for my tween daughter. Unfortunately, circumstances were such that I was no longer going to be homeschooing her (God made that clear, but that’s a story for another time). My youngest daughter was only five, so I had to put the goal sheet idea on the back-burner for a later time.
At around the same time, I was starting to discover the role of the student and applying it to my own life. I was focused on learning how to listen to God and then act according to His prompts. Regular prayer was all I was using to determine how the day would unfold with my youngest and the activities we would do. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’ (Acts 2:28).
Every morning, we woke up, prayed, listened, and went about our morning routine. We started with responsibilities like making the bed, scrambling eggs, brushing teeth, and so on. And then, other opportunities would begin to present themselves. We read stories, played games, invented new board games, played “store” and “restaurant,” went on hikes, made crafts, and talked about A LOT of different topics. One thing’s for sure, we always had plenty to do and yet I pre-planned none of it. Of course, the built in curiosity of a child means that there’s never a shortage of questions to find answers to or ideas to chase!
Still, I wondered if this was what education was going to be like for us from now on. Would we never have a regular routine or structure to follow again? Was it simply a matter of seeing where the wind blew us each day? If that was the case, I was fully prepared to abide in God’s will. After all, I enjoyed seeing His hand, recognizing His presence, and I was always pleasantly surprised by the activities that came of it. They were things I hadn’t thought about, but they were always the perfect thing for the moment.
Soon, however, I began to make a connection—God had already given us the structure I needed for my beginning student in Mark 12:28-31! It had been there all along, right under my nose. Now, we had something to focus on each day—we would work on loving the Lord with our:
- Heart – pray, read the Bible, work in her AWANA Book, etc.
- Soul – anything my daughter was inspired to do (for her that was often inventing a board game, playing store, making a craft, going on a hike, trying an experiment, etc.)
- Mind – an activity having to do with numbers and/or letters
- Body – practicing healthy habits like brushing teeth, washing, making a healthy food choice, some form of exercise, etc.
- Service – deliberately doing something to help someone in the family, a neighbor, care for a pet, etc. (chores fit here as that serves the family).
She may have been too young for goal sheets, but we were able to talk about these verses and make it our goal to do something in each category every day. The truth is, we were already doing this simply by following God’s lead which confirmed to me that we were on the right path. As my daughter has gotten older, the number and complexity of the things we do has increased. A couple regular commitments, piano lessons (soul) and soccer practice (body), have been added. Also, it’s now our goal to do something in each of the 3 “R’s” (mind) each day instead of addressing just one of them (frankly, reading AND writing are often practiced in a single activity or in pursuing a “soul” subject – there’s really a lot of overlap).
Mark 12:28-31 gives us a tangible reference point, a north star to follow. It satisfies a need for a “to do” list, and yet it gives us plenty of time and space to explore and discover (see God for the details specific to you). However, these are goals not requirements so it’s OK if we don’t hit each point every day. If that happens then it’s usually because we became deeply involved in a project or had to deal with life’s curve balls. Still, approaching each day with these goals prompted us to be mindful of God all the time and to love Him continually (without having to sit in solitude on a mountaintop).
That’s how we do it in the 21st century.