Proverbs for Dinner

They wash their hands, dirt from the garden rings the sink. Troupe to the table, stomachs empty, wanting and ready and eager to be filled. Middle Child lays out painted plates, Youngest folds napkins under each shining fork, Eldest sets out glasses of ice water. I lay down this night’s offering…food for the body, nourishment for this hungry family. Bowls of mashed potatoes, plates of meat, heaps of vegetables steam in the center as we bow our heads, pray.

But hungry bodies are only part of what needs to be filled, only one need that is empty and waiting. Hungry souls need food, as well. Hubby finishes our prayer, I begin to fill empty plates. Each night, as plates are filled, Hubby opens the Book that holds true Soul Food. We listen, learn, discuss.

Our family tradition is to read Proverbs at dinner, daily bites of wisdom to nourish us and help us grow. We read them from The One Year Bible Compact Edition NIV, which offers several proverbs for each day. With this, we hear and discuss all the Proverbs every year. Each day, several verses are read aloud. Hubby closes the Bible, asks each child to tell: What does this mean to you? Tell us in your own words. And we listen.

So often, we hear the words and they glide through our ears, over our mind and back out again, never taking root. It’s all too easy to miss the meaning or just nod in agreement, never really grasping the wisdom of the words. So the telling is important, the telling is what turns the soil of young minds so that dry-packed earth becomes open, ready for seeds to take root.

Some times, these Proverbs on a child’s tongue are wonderfully funny. Take the seven-year old understanding of Proverbs 25:23….As a north wind brings rain, so a sly tongue brings angry looks. When asked to tell, Youngest shared: “Look out for rain. And don’t do a raspberry at someone or you might get in trouble.” Ah, the wisdom of the very young!

Other times, in the listening, we hear pictures of what is happening in our children’s minds…we see their thoughts, their concerns, the problems they are working through day-to-day. A proverb about wisdom reminds them that they need to work on loving school, a proverb about hard work brings on ideas to start mowing lawns and saving money. Proverbs about obedience and discipline open discussions as to why we parents are under obligation to keep our children in line, to train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it (Proverbs 22:6). They hear the words, they listen to understand, and then in turn each repeats the Proverb as they understand it. sometimes we write a particularly applicable Proverb on the white board in the dining room, to keep in mind for the next day. We talk about it, apply it to life, work to commit it to memory.

And then, we eat!