That Fifth Commandment

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J_DianaI helped my husband teach Sunday School a few weeks ago. He teaches the kids in grades 1-4 and his usual teammate was out of town on Mother’s Day, so he asked me to step in.

I did all I could to stifle a groan, forced a smile and said, “Well, I guess so.”

Not the most gracious response, I will admit. Since I retired from ministry a little over three years ago, I’ve sort of “given up” Sunday school. I did a lot of planning, coordinating, setting up tables and chairs, and teaching during my years as an associate pastor, and, to tell you the truth, I am pretty burned out on the whole shebang.

Also? I taught adults. That’s what my call was, that’s where my gifts lie, and for a long time, I absolutely loved it.

I think it was the tables and chairs that finally got to me.

So, for most of the last three years, I have gotten up, gotten dressed and driven my husband to church, dropping him off by the children’s wing. And then, I’ve turned my car around and headed right straight down to the beach.

I park my car near the bluffs, under the lone cypress tree that marks “my spot,” and I sit with my tea and my toast and I stare at the sea. Sometimes, I read scripture or a devotional guide. Sometimes I just sit. Always, I open myself to God and listen. And you want to know something? I’ve gotten so much more out of worship when I begin my Sunday this way–by myself, by the sea.

So to give that up–on Mother’s Day, no less–was tough to do.

But.

I wanted to honor my husband.

I don’t do enough of that these days. We’ve grown into a comfortable pattern of occupying this house in separate spaces most of the day. We check in with each other, we check up on each other–but part of the adjustment to our both being home together, all day, every day, has meant the creation of parallel lives, at least to some extent. So agreeing to his request that we do something together seemed timely and important.

And he really, really wanted me there.

Part of the lesson involved looking at the fifth commandment–one of the two positive commands in the list God gave to Moses all those years ago, the one that tells us to “honor our father and mother so that our days may be long in the land . . .” It was Mother’s Day, after all, and working those words into the morning seemed appropriate, even necessary.

Then I scoured the internet for a simple Mom’s Day craft to build into the lesson and was delighted to discover a small, heart-shaped bird feeder, created from pipe cleaners and cheerios. I found some sparkly ribbon to hang them with, and voila! We had a sweet, simple gift for the kids to make.

So at 9am, the students began to gather. The number is never huge; our community is mid-sized and we were anticipating a half dozen or so. We had seven, ranging in age from 5-10, and what a delight the whole morning turned out to be.

Don’t get me wrong–this is not my “thing” and I’m quite happy to continue to be the filler-inner . . . once in a while. But, at the end of the hour, it turned out to be a morning of sweet serendipity and a happy reminder of why I married the man that I did.

My husband is one of the most natural children’s teachers I’ve ever seen. He loves those kids, and they love him. They worked through a list of about seven memory verses they’ll be saying in front of the congregation in a week or so, they prayed for one another, and they learned something from both Testaments.

And they had fun stringing cheerios onto a heart-shaped bird feeder.

My husband was appreciative and grateful. But here’s the loveliest part: in honoring him, it turned out that I was the one who was honored! I was honored to see him in his element, I was honored to be received and welcomed by seven smiling children. I was honored to help the littlest ones push their Cheerios onto those pipe cleaners. And most of all, I was honored to see, once again, why Jesus encourages us to welcome the children, and to learn of him when we do.

_______________

Image credit: Quinn Dombrowski

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Diana Trautwein
Married to her college sweetheart for over 40 years, Diana is always wondering about things. She answers to Mom from their three adult kids and spouses and to Nana from their 8 grandkids, ranging in age from 3 to 22. For 17 years, after a mid-life call to ministry, she answered to Pastor Diana in two churches where she served as Associate Pastor. Since retiring at the end of 2010, she spends her time working as a spiritual director and writes on her blog, Just Wondering. For as long as she can remember, Jesus has been central to her story and the church an extension of her family. Not that either church or family is exactly perfect . . . but then, that’s what makes life interesting, right?
Diana Trautwein

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  • Erin Wilson

    “I think it was the tables and chairs that finally got to me.”

    I have to admit that I chuckled when I read that. I so ‘get’ that.

    • pastordt

      And I’m so glad somebody does! Man, it got old after about a dozen years, you know?

  • Kerry Connelly

    Church is where God is, and God is everywhere, right? As my husband arrives home from a 10 day trip to India tonight, I am honoring him with coffeecake muffins. Sometimes I get smacked in the head with how much smarter God is than me — in things like how if I’d just be still and do something to honor my husband, I would probably get more out of it than he would. What a generous, beautiful God we serve — may you be refreshed by your seaside worship sessions! 🙂

    • pastordt

      Thanks so much, Kerry, for these kind and encouraging words. Enjoy that reunion!!

  • sandyhay

    I’m with you on this Diana, “We’ve grown into a comfortable pattern of occupying this house in separate spaces most of the day. We check in with each other, we check up on each other–but part of the adjustment to our both being home together, all day, every day, has meant the creation of parallel lives, at least to some extent.” There have been times when Rich has asked me to join in and I’ve actually said no (shame on me). Other times when I’ve stopped and realized this was a God moment, exhaled, and said yes, it’s been so sweet. There should be a commandment to honor your spouse ( Although I know it’s in the New Testament, actually put more firmly by Paul 😉

    • pastordt

      Yeah, it’s a funny thing, isn’t it? One of the plusses and minuses of retirement, all rolled into one. We have to learn how to do the marriage dance a little differently when we’re sharing the same space 24/7, don’t we? It’s mostly a good learning, though, and for that, I’m grateful.

  • Ah – so sweet, Diana. Louis is hoping to retire next summer. I’m trying to prepare myself for having him home 24/7. I like quiet – he doesn’t. I may need to find a “cypress tree” of my own. “But here’s the loveliest part: in honoring him, it turned out that I was the one who was honored!” I think that is so true about everything God calls us to do, don’t you? So why am I ever so rebellious?

    • pastordt

      Excellent question, Patricia! For me, I think it comes down – again! – to trust. Do I trust that God knows best? That God is out for my good? So many blessings as you and Louis move into this next phase of life – it’s a rich one, but there are definite adjustments to be made.

  • marthaorlando

    The little children can be the best teachers about Jesus, indeed! I’ve learned so much about Him from my almost four-year-old granddaughter. I’m glad this Mother’s Day was such a wonderful one for you!
    Blessings!

    • pastordt

      Indeed, those little ones can teach us a whole lot — about life and about God. Thanks for reading today, Martha.

  • We barista once a month at our church. It would not be my volunteer position of choice, but my husband loves it. Over the past five years of making coffee and plating snacks, I’ve learned what an amazing gift it is to serve behind the scenes. We have made such amazing connections that would have otherwise been missed.

    • pastordt

      I love that kind of service, too. GREAT idea to do it together. We used to do it with our entire family when the kids were growing up. I have no idea how many wedding dinners we helped to serve at our family church – but it was always fun.

  • abby

    Oh Quinn, this absolutely touched me today, on so many levels. My husband and I are at the mutually happy, relatively separate, moderately dependent relationship and the reminder of how to honor him in the simple ways is so timely. Also, I’ve been through that whole process of perhaps over-doing it at church and church stuff and find my heart so fulfilled in quiet, back porch, coffee and journal time with Jesus. Thank you for your honesty and the beauty of your words!

    • pastordt

      You’re welcome, Abby. Glad you found some resonance here. (And it’s Diana here, not Quinn. 🙂

  • cjdeboer

    Lovely, Diana. And isn’t this the truth: “in honoring him, it turned out that I was the one who was honored!” Sounds like a beautiful Mother’s Day gift, for both of you 🙂

    • pastordt

      It was, Claire. It truly was. Thanks for reading and for commenting!

  • Glenda Childers

    I like your deliberate choice to honor your husband in this way. And your description of supporting each other while giving each other space. And … your own private Sunday School at the beach.

    Fondly,
    Glenda

    • pastordt

      I’m so glad, Glenda, that you liked what you found here. I always like seeing you, that’s for sure.

  • Bev Murrill

    How lovely! I can just see you there… doing something for love, as is so common for you. This is so encouraging. xx

    • pastordt

      Ah, Bev! Thanks for these kind words. Truly. And back atcha, too.

  • under the lone cypress tree that marks “my spot,” ……… Is this “the” lone cypress on 17 mile drive? I would do the same thing. Sit, stare, read, open eyes.

    • pastordt

      No, Carol, this one lone cypress is about 400 miles south of that one. 🙂 but it’s lovely nonetheless and one of my favorite places to be.

  • Such a great post, Diana. Loved it.

    • pastordt

      Why, thank you, Idelette. 🙂

  • Hazel Moon

    Enjoyed your sweet story Diana, and as a fill in you make a wonderful volunteer!

    • pastordt

      Thanks so much, Hazel. Glad you enjoyed it.

  • This is a precious story. Love the beauty of community even when it’s not the one we would’ve personally selected in a given moment. Thanks for sharing!

    • pastordt

      Great way to put it, Sarah – ‘the beauty of community even when it’s not the one we would’ve personally selected in a given moment.’ EXACTLY. Thanks so much.

  • Lots of touch points for me in this one Diana. We live near the ocean and visit it as often as we can, even if it’s a drive by taking a mental and visual break from our word day. I also relate to the ministry aspect and coming up on 37 years of marriage and, well, you see this one had so much of my life in it. Thank you for reminding me of the honor my husband needs from me.

    • pastordt

      Which ocean, Debby? Are you a CA girl, too? And yes, there is something about even a drive-by that can change my mental chemistry enough to change the whole day. It’s a lovely thing and I’m so grateful to live near enough to be there as often as I like. Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

      • Atlantic ocean, Diana. We’re way down in Ft. Lauderdale the opposite side of the world it feels sometimes. Both places show off God’s artistry.

        • pastordt

          Indeed. Enjoy your coast this summer!