Memories of the small Baptist church where I was raised crowd my mind. One oversized recollection contains a carpeted floor with a multi-colored duct tape circle, a bean bag, a bowling pin and lots of sweating and screaming. Mix those elements with Scripture memorization and some kitschy uniforms and you’ve got AWANA.
In short, AWANA is a Bible club for kids. Growing up, it was a Wednesday night staple of my spiritual diet. Besides the biblical emphasis, AWANA was flavored with a hint of Scouting (i.e. Boy and Girl Scouts). In addition to committing God’s Word to memory, male clubbers were required to tie knots. The square, the bowline, the hitch, the figure-8 and the dreaded fisherman’s knot haunted me. My carefully planned gyrations with a strand of hemp often unraveled into a nameless mess. I found more success getting a knot in the laces of my red colored Keds while running around that sadistically tight-radiused AWANA circle.
The past few entries in this blog have extracted some parenting principles from Deuteronomy 6. So far, we’ve unpacked the words ‘teach’ and ‘talk’ from verse 7. This time around we’re going to tie ourselves to the word ‘bind.’
“You shall bind them [God’s commands] as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.” (Deuteronomy 6:8, ESV)
The word ‘bind’ conjures images of my knot tying struggles. But more important than my lack of dexterity with rope is this instruction from God to bind his Word to our bodies. It’s a curious metaphor. Or is it?
Some see this verse not as literary device, but as literal. For millennia, Jewish priests have crafted small leather boxes called phylacteries. They fill these boxes with bits of Scripture and tie (bind) them to their arm and forehead (I wonder what knot they use?). Even though it would make for great water cooler conversation, the strapping of small boxes to our person is a bit unusual. Still, the command to bind deserves serious attention.
Binding can be bad, like the shackles of slavery. It can be wonderful, like the covenant of marriage. It can be neutral, like the binding of a book.
Syntax aside, what’s fascinating is that God wants His truth stuck to us. It’s to be part of who we are and how we live. This suggests God’s Word is more than paper and ink. It’s has life outside small boxes. God’s Word is living, active, useful and profitable (see Hebrews 4:12 & 2 Timothy 3:16). And the places God tells us to bind it are wonderfully strategic.
Look at your hands. What are they doing right now? What were they doing this morning? Who or what have they touched in the last 24-hours? What gestures have you made? Have you held, hit, hugged or hoarded? Has the work of your hands been directed by God’s principles? If you saw a phylactery on your forearm, would it cause you pause? Remember the WWJD bracelet craze? Those bracelets were a 20-century phylactery. In the time I donned mine, it can attest to the power it had over my behavior – at least for a while.
Consider your eyes. Eyes are extraordinary receptors. They pipe an unending stream of information. What our eyes gather has the power to influence our words, thoughts, deeds and attitudes. What have you looked at today? If you had a Bible verse taped to your forehead, what would you focus on more? Less? Not at all? There is power in the phylactery. It’s an outward indicator of our faith commitment. It demands accountability. Like WWJD garb.
These thoughts of binding remind me of a song I often sang in my pre-AWANA years:
O be careful little eyes what you see
O be careful little eyes what you see
There’s a Father up above
And He’s looking down with love
So, be careful little eyes what you see.
O be careful little ears what you hear…
O be careful little hands what you do…
O be careful little feet where you go…
O be careful little mouth what you say…
Yes, it’s a cute song. But it mustn’t over-sentimentalize my need as a follower of Jesus to act as such. Metaphor or not, I can’t go wrong as a person, partner, parent or professional when I’m bound to the truth and love of God’s written word. I want to be fastened to Scripture so its timeless truth might seep into my pores and season to a Christ-exalting savory-ness.
And I’m grateful no knots are required.