Several years ago, my little family was in the middle of a move with four kids, a dog—who thought she was one of the kids—a hamster, and a few goldfish. Let me tell you, moving goldfish can be a real challenge.
We had just purchased a new home after digging ourselves out of a deep financial hole. God allowed us to find a sweet two-story, colonial home in Chandler, AZ. Finding a colonial in a city full of western-style ranches was nothing short of a miracle.
God knew this tired and stressed-out momma needed a little help. In his sovereignty, he arranged for the move to be right in the middle of our church’s Vacation Bible School. Every momma knows what that means: built-in babysitting. My kids were three, four, five, and seven years old and the vacation Bible school schedule was custom made for me.
Missing number four
I signed them all up for VBS for the week so I could get the packing done.
Have you ever tried to move with a toddler?
For every one thing you put in a box, three more things come out. This game can keep any toddler happy for hours on end. So when the chance presented itself for kids to be out of the house, allowing me to pack and them to learn about Jesus, I could not sign them up fast enough.
That morning, we were running late. (Please give this momma some slack. Remember: they were three, four, five, and seven.) I shouted, “Everybody in the car, but make sure you have brushed your teeth and have your shoes on.”
We jumped into my uber-cool, full-sized van with the pink racing stripe. This was the 80s pre-minivan era. The drive to church was uneventful, and I was caught up in my own thoughts. We arrived and kid one, two, and three jumped out to run to their camp tribe—but where was number four?
My seven-year-old was nowhere in sight.
“Will, get out of the van right this minute. William? I am not joking. Kids, where is Will?”
“I don’t know,” came the voice from my five-year-old son.
“Will, are you hiding? This is NOT FUNNY! Kids, where is Will? This is not what I need today,” I said in frustration.
“But mom, he isn’t in the van,” quipped my smart-as-a-whip second-born.
“What do you mean? Why did you not say something to me?”
“I don’t know,” he said again.
My first clue should have been the uneventful drive to church.
A random act of obedience
It is never uneventful with four kids so close in age. There is usually at least one—if not more—of the “He’s touching me” or “He looked at me funny” argument if we are in the car for more than two-and-a-half minutes.
When I realized they were not kidding, I jumped back in the van and rushed back to the house. I may or may not have broken the land-speed record between my house and church. (How long is the statute of limitations for speeding?)
As I pulled into the driveway, my mom’s car was there, much to my relief. I had forgotten she was coming over to help me pack, so my short-forgotten son had not been alone for more than ten minutes.
I squeezed him until his eyes nearly popped out of his head. “What were you thinking? Why did you get out of the car?”
“Mom, you told us to brush our teeth and I hadn’t done that yet, so I got out to brush them,” Will honestly replied.
I whispered in his ear as he wriggled out of my grasp. “Today of all days, you decided to listen and obey?”
The sound of a momma’s voice
He had heard my voice, recognized it, and obeyed. Much like the verse found in the book of John and the voice of the Good Shepherd.
“Let me set this before you as plainly as I can. If a person climbs over or through the fence of a sheep pen instead of going through the gate, you know he’s up to no good—a sheep rustler! The shepherd walks right up to the gate. The gatekeeper opens the gate to him, and the sheep recognize his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he gets them all out, he leads them, and they follow because they are familiar with his voice. They won’t follow a stranger’s voice but will scatter because they aren’t used to the sound of it” (John 10: 1–5 MSG emphasis added).
Our little ones learn to recognize momma’s voice even before they are born. As Kate Fehihaber wrote in “How babies know their mother’s voice—even in the womb,” as newborns develop, they are able to detect their mother’s voice in the midst of other female voices.
Scientists have been able to trace the impact of the power of a mother’s voice to infants’ brains. Fehihaber explains that a mother’s voice activates the anterior prefrontal cortex and the posterior temporal region more strongly than an unfamiliar voice, priming the infant for speech and language processing. A mother’s voice can soothe a child in stressful situations, reducing cortisol and increasing levels of oxytocin, the social bonding hormone.
Just as our kiddos learn our voice, they can learn the voice of the Lord at a very young age. We can teach our precious children to hear and learn to distinguish God’s voice.
The thing is, we first need to be able to distinguish the voice for ourselves. Once we do recognize his voice, we can model not only how to hear his voice, but also how to speak like him—much like the voice of the shepherd in John 10.
Recognize his voice
How can you recognize the voice of your shepherd and teach your children to hear it?
1. The voice of your shepherd brings encouraging guidance.
His voice, the one we hear in our hearts when reading the Bible, or from a trusted friend or pastor, always brings life, even when it is correction. God’s voice does not condemn or bring shame.
When we talk with our children, do we speak life even when we are bringing correction?
2. The voice of your shepherd does not cause us to strive.
As a mom, do you strive to be the perfect mom? Do you feel as if you have to contend, battle, or compete with other moms, even if it is in your own head? The voice that says you are not good enough or you don’t know enough is not his voice. Striving is not found in the language of grace.
How we talk about ourselves models for our children not only how they may talk about themselves but also how the heavenly Father talks about them.
3. The voice of our shepherd brings life in its fullest until you overflow.
His voice causes us to want to share with others what he has done for us. It does not cause us to shrink back but to be bold about laying our life down for others.
“I alone am the Good Shepherd, and I know those whose hearts are mine, for they recognize me and know me, just as my Father knows my heart and I know my Father’s heart. I am ready to give my life for the sheep” (John 10:14–15 TPT).
Teaching our kids to hear his voice is more about modeling how we hear it and then having conversations in those moments, along with asking them what they hear.
Just be ready to be blessed at how much they truly understand what God speaks to them.