From the Overflow
While doing my student teaching in a seventh-grade science classroom in a public school in Chattanooga, Tennessee, I served under an amazing teacher. Because that experience was so long ago, I don’t remember all that happened. One thing that I do remember that has left an indelible mark on me in many areas of my life is a statement she made. She challenged me to “teach from the overflow.” What she meant was that I should know my content so well that I would fill in exciting and interesting aspects of my lesson from that overflow.
I also recognize a clear relationship of this statement to the parenting and spiritual formation that takes place in our homes. If we want our kids to know God then we need to know him so well that it overflows from our actions and words in significant ways. To know Him means we need to be filling our hearts and minds with Scripture and sound doctrine.
I came across this quote from Henry Ward Beecher, "A mother's heart is the child's classroom." This statement gives me pause as I consider how it correlates with “teach from the overflow.” The primary location of our children's education does not take place in our schoolroom. It is not found in the curriculum, or in all the educational activities, sports, and opportunities we provide for them. Rather, they learn the most out of the overflow of our (parents) own hearts.
While the Beecher quote is just that, a quote, the Bible does tell us that what is in our heart is very important. It directs the course of our day and our life. Jesus said that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34). Proverbs instructs us to “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23). John 7:38 says “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”
One of the clearest instructions for the duties of parents comes from Deuteronomy 6: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates" (vs. 4-9).
The scary follow-up question is, just what are our children learning in the classroom of our homes? What do they learn from challenging social or cultural events?" What lessons do they learn each day about how to love others?" Or what do they learn about how to handle anxiety?" And then there are all those foundational courses about living the Gospel in all of life, depending on Christ for all things," and "living with purpose." What do they learn from us there? These lessons from the overflow will shape how our kids will function as adults. These lessons will be the shadow that our kids will have to deal with for the rest of their lives. What are your kids learning from the overflow of your heart?