That Fifth Commandment


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.


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