Devotional, Parenting

Devotional Thoughts: Train Up a Child

Each Sunday, I’ll share something spiritual that’s been on my heart.

First, a little bit about me: I have always loved languages, culture, and people; when I became a Christian in high school, those loves merged together to lead me to study to be a Bible translator. My husband holds a pastoral degree in missions, and we had originally planned to go on the mission field full-time after we graduated college.

Our son’s health issues changed that; when he was young, he contracted SARS. He eventually recovered, but because the long-term effects of it were not known, it was strongly recommend that patients stay within the US (or another western healthcare system) for 10 years. That kind of put our plans for the mission field on hold.

Holding Hands

However, we discovered a whole new mission field – and we couldn’t be happier with it. God works in amazing ways!

Having majored in linguistics (and being a total language geek), I taught foreign languages at local co ops and out of my home for several years. Because I happen to love teaching ancient languages like Latin, Hebrew, and Greek, those were often the classes in demand. A lot of the things I discovered while prepping for those classes have made a huge impact in my life.

When you read scripture in the original languages, a lot of things come through that just plain don’t translate well into English. I want to share one of those nuggets with you today.

Train Up a Child

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”  I came across this scripture when I was preparing for a Hebrew lesson…and noticed something I’d never seen before, having only read it in English.

Time after time, I’ve heard teachings about this verse, saying that if you raise your child in a faithful home and educate them about God, even if they rebel as a young adult, they will eventually return to “the way they should go” – that it’s a scriptural promise.

Only problem is, I’ve seen this contradicted in life as well as in scripture.  I’ve often tried to reconcile what I’ve been taught with what I’ve seen in real life, as well as what I’ve seen in other areas of God’s Word.  No matter how faithful a home someone is raised in, they choose their own relationship – or lack thereof – with God.  Yes, upbringing does play a part, but it does not guarantee anything.  It doesn’t somehow overpower someone’s will to make them choose as we might want them to.  People live according to their choices – the choices that God gave us the ability to make.  Some people choose wisely; others, for whatever reason, do not.

Intentional Parenting

Which brings me back to this scripture…in Hebrew, it means something quite different than how many of us learned it in English.  The literal translation of it is, “Train up (or raise) a child to follow his own way, and even when he is old he will not walk away from it.”  It’s not a promise so much as it is a warning.  It is using irony to drive home a point (this type of irony is also used in other chapters of wisdom literature, for the same purpose).  If, as parents, we neglect our responsibility and allow our children to follow their own way – even if we surround them with church teachings – they are not going to magically snap out of the habit when they grow up.  This might seem obvious, but when you take the thought a bit deeper, there’s a lot there.

When taken in context with other similar verses in Proverbs, this idea of training doesn’t have much to do with controlling a child’s every move or making them blindly follow a set of rules.  It doesn’t have to do with having the newest and shiniest curriculum, for Bible or any other subject.  It has to do with instilling wisdom in them – through our actions, through our conversations, through our dealings with them and others, through our study and application of scripture in our own lives – wisdom to know the difference between their will and God’s will.  Wisdom to give them an understanding of the benefits and consequences of following God’s will vs. their own.  Wisdom to know the difference between what the world is telling them and what God is telling them.

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end, it leads to death.”  “Train up a child to follow his own way, and even when he is old he will not walk away from it.”  All the curricula in the world, all the great teaching ideas we come across, aren’t going to mean much if our kids don’t also clearly see God’s ways in our lives.  Does this give us a guarantee?  No…unfortunately.  But allowing them to see the scriptural truths that they’re learning play out in our lives on a daily basis, in every situation, is the best way to train them up to learn to follow His ways instead of their own.  We only have so many years in which we’re the main influence in their lives…let’s make the most of it.

I’d love to hear your thoughts: what do you think? Comment below!

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