I will never be able to forget Psalm 19:14. These words are an incredible framework for life, perfectly inspired by the Holy Spirit, but that's not exactly why I'll never forget them. The real reason this guiding verse is unforgettable for me is far more practical: I have heard it and spoken it literally hundreds of times.
You see, Psalm 19:14, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer” is the official benediction of my alma mater, Lee University, in southeast Tennessee. This verse was everywhere on campus: spoken at every major campus event, recited at the end of chapel services three times a week, inscribed on buildings…you get the idea. Yet what started as just a repetitive mantra (sometimes mindlessly mumbled more than purposefully prayed) has sunk down deep into my being and I believe it impacts who I am today, years after leaving my college campus.
Benedictions are not a new concept. Many religious traditions include short prayers of blessing from God. But I’ve recently come across a different kind of benediction that caught my attention because of its novelty: a family benediction.
Christian author and influencer Jefferson Bethke shared a prayer that he recites with his two young children each morning at breakfast:
“I’m not what I do.
I’m not what I have.
I’m not what people say about me.
I am the beloved of God. It’s who I am.
No one can take it from me.
I don’t have to hurry. I don’t have to worry. I can trust my friend Jesus and share His love with the world.”
Another Christian author and mom of littles, Liz Bohannon, wrote her own family benediction inspired by that of Bethke…
“I’m not what I have, what I do, or what people say.
I am a child of God, and no one can take that away.
There’s nothing I can do to make God love me less or more.
I don’t have to hurry or worry, Jesus settled the score.
I can rest in the love of my Heavenly Father, and let my courage and kindness be a gift to others.”
Bohannon describes the power of hearing her young son speak these truths to her as he goes to sleep at night. It’s easy for us as adults to forget, in the day-to-day grind of full-time work and parenting, who we are and whose we are. Developing a family benediction can help keep us all grounded in truth.
In Deuteronomy 6, God speaks to His people, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up…”
Psalm 19:14 is permanently stamped on my soul because of its prevalence in my college life. One of the most beautiful things (to me) about the way God speaks is that His Spirit reminds me of Truth in different ways during different seasons of life. So what Psalm 19:14 meant to me and how it guided me as a 20-year-old is quite different than what it means to me now, yet equally relevant, encouraging, alive.
Scripture tells us over and over again to commit truth to memory and hide His word in our hearts. As a parent of littles, I have personally come to realize that this process is complex. Hiding God’s word in our hearts may certainly look like memorizing Scripture verses (like Psalm 19:14) with our kids, but it can also take other forms. My kids love to sing worship songs and Christian kids songs that are replete with God’s Truth. Memorizing passages from Christian works like C.S. Lewis are another way to instill Truth in our children in a creative way.
Using one of the above family benedictions or developing one unique to your own family is yet another way to impress truth on our child's heart. And I have a feeling, they won't be able to forget it.
If implementing a family benediction is something you'd like to try with your young ones, here are a few tips that may be helpful:
- Content - Whether you use one of the examples above or write your own, ask the question "What are the truths that I want my kids to hold onto?" and invite the Holy Spirit to lead you in answering.
- Catchiness - Secondary to content, you want to make sure that your family benediction is something your people can memorize! Liz Bohannon talked about how important rhyme was in developing hers. Adding a familiar tune or other mnemonic device may help your family.
- Consistency - Pick a time that works well for your family to say the benediction and try to stick with it. Bethke's family says it as they are preparing for their day; Bohannon's family says it at bedtime. Life is busy and routine can be hard to maintain...just do your best!