Tuesday, September 17, 2013

#4 Lessons from the Empty Nest ~ "Train up a child in the way..."

I found this "collection of thoughts" circulating around the social media called facebook. These are not verses of scripture from the Bible but they are lines of reflection from the heart of an unknown mother/author.

I’ve chosen to post this as Part 4 of my "Empty Nest" series to address a heart-cry of some Christian parents, but first, enjoy this heart-felt collection of thoughts and see if you agree.


"Reflection of a Mother"

I gave you life, but cannot live it for you.

I can teach you things, but I cannot make you learn.

I can give you directions, but I cannot be there to lead you.

I can allow you freedom, but I cannot account for it.

I can take you to church, but I cannot make you believe.

I can teach you right from wrong, but I cannot always decide for you.

I can buy you beautiful clothes, but I cannot make you beautiful inside.

I can offer you advice, but I cannot accept it for you.

I can give you love, but I cannot force it upon you.

I can teach you to share, but I cannot make you unselfish.

I can teach you respect, but I cannot force you to show honor.

I can advise you about friends, but cannot choose them for you.

I can advise you about sex, but I cannot keep you pure.

I can tell you the facts of life, but I can’t build your reputation.

I can tell you about drink, but I can’t say "no" for you.

I can warn you about drugs, but I can’t prevent you from using them.

I can tell you about lofty goals, but I can’t achieve them for you.

I can teach you about kindness, but I can’t force you to be gracious.

I can warn you about sins, but I cannot make you moral.

I can love you as a child, but I cannot place you in God’s family.

I can pray for you, but I cannot make you walk with God.

I can teach you about Jesus, but I cannot make Jesus your Lord.

I can tell you how to live, but I cannot give you eternal life.

I can love you with unconditional love all of my life…and I will!

(Author Unknown)

~ * ~ * ~

As a devout Fundamental Independent Baptist missionary woman, wife, mother, and nana there is a point I would like to reflect on that I think it is also the heart-cry of many Christian parents... How to resolve the scripture admonition to... "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6) with the reality that not all children raised in godly homes have followed, or will follow suit.

Christian parents have said:
"We took our children to church every time the doors were open, and many times we were the first to arrive and the last to leave. We made the commitment and took on the financial struggle of sending our children to a private Christian school (and/or home schooled) in an effort to keep them from the influence of secular education and indoctrination. We guarded the music we/they listened to, and the television programs we/they watched. We encouraged them (and set an example before them) in Christian service to work on a bus route, help with a Sunday School class, participation in teen/church visitation, and to join Christian oriented clubs and programs (such as Patch the Pirate, King’s Kids, Awana, etc.). We did our best to scrutinize their circle of friends and encouraged their friendships with those we believed to have a godly influence on our children. We even encouraged adult friendships with our/their pastor and his wife, youth pastor and family, and other adult Christians. They went off to Bible colleges. We prayed for them. We loved them. So, after all these efforts, why did our children "depart from it"?"

If you were the parents of the biblical Samson, I’m guessing you would also want an answer to that question.
Samson’s parents were childless until an angel told them a son would be born to them and he would be a Nazarite from his birth; commissioned by God for a particular purpose. Samson was empowered with a physical strength that made others tremble in his presence, yet he did not live a life dedicated to God and neglected all his training to indulge in his own lusts. (Judges chapters 13 thru 16)

Added to the wonderment of Samson’s parents, we can also submit this list of other godly fathers, in the Bible, that might also have been asking that same question, "Why did my child depart from that which they were taught?"

1.) Esau, son of Isaac, sold his birthright. - Genesis 25:27-34 2.) Nadab and Adihu sons of Aaron, offered strange fire on the altar of incense. - Leviticus 10:1-4 3.) Abimelech, son of Gideon, murdered his 70 brothers. - Judges chapter 9 and Judges 6:32 4.) Hophni and Phinehas, sons of Eli, were immoral and dishonest priests. - I Samuel 2:12-25 5.) Joel and Abijah, sons of Samuel, took bribes and perverted justice. - I Samuel 8:1-3 6.) Amnon, son of David, raped his half sister. - II Samuel 13:1-19 7.) Absalom, son of David, led a rebellion against his father. - II Samuel chapters 15-18 8.) Adonijah, son of David, attempted to steal Solomon’s throne. - I Kings chapter 1 9.) Rehoboam, son of Solomon, caused a tragic civil war. - I Kings chapter 12

10.) Joram, son of Jehoshaphat, murdered his six brothers. - II Kings 8:16-24

11.) Ahaz, son of Jotham, sacrificed his own children to idols. - II Kings 16:1-20

12.) Manasseh, son of Hezekiah, was Judah’s worst king. - II Kings 21:1-18

13.) Jehoahaz, son of Josiah, did evil in the sight of God. - II Kings 23:31-33

14.) Jehoiakim, son of Josiah, burned the scroll from Jeremiah. - Jeremiah 36:20-26

15.) Zedekiah, son of Josiah, persecuted Jeremiah. - II Kings 24:17-25:30; Jeremiah 37:1-21
(Source: "Book of Bible Lists" by H.L. Willmington; Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.; Wheaton, Illinois; 1987)

In addition, Abraham was a godly, fatherly example to Lot, but Lot "vexed his righteous soul" through his own personal decisions, not because of any lack on Abraham’s part. (Genesis 12:4; 13:1, 5-18; 2 Peter 2:7, 8)

There are also these verses (among others) which express the anguish of the Lord with the Children of Israel:

Isaiah 1:2 "Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the Lord hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me."
Jeremiah 2:7 "And I brought you into a plentiful country, to eat the fruit thereof and the goodness thereof; but when ye entered, ye defiled my land, and made mine heritage an abomination."

So... Why did these sons fall short of the instructions of their godly fathers? Why did these children of godly parents stray so far away from the path that was set before them? Why did the Nation of Israel rebel against God after all the Lord had done for them? Wasn’t the promise "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." a sufficient plan for rearing their children... for rearing our children?

~ * ~ * ~
Here are some reflections from this mother’s heart:

1.) I thought Proverbs 22:6 was a promise. ~ It’s not. It is a proverb which means it’s a wise saying. Words of wisdom are to be heeded, but wisdom is not a promise. Wisdom is a diligent endeavor to know the truth and to apply the understanding of that truth to every aspect of our lives.

2.) I thought Proverbs 22:6 was for parents. ~ And it is, but it’s not exclusively for parents. A child is "trained" by many people; school teachers, Bible teachers, pastors, even their peers are contributing to their training.

3.) I thought Proverbs 22:6 was a designated path. A path I was to set my children on and, by carefully designing that path, there would be little they could do but follow its course. ~ Actually, it’s not a path, but more a realization of who our children uniquely are.

4.) I misinterpreted what Proverbs 22:6 was encouraging us, as parents, to accomplish with each individual child. ~ This is what one commentator had to say about this verse:
"Train; Initiate, and so, educate. The way he should go Or, according to the tenor of his way, i.e., the path especially belonging to, especially fitted for, the individual’s character. The proverb enjoins the closest possible study of each child’s temperament and the adaptation of ‘his way of life’ to that." (Albert Barnes; Commentary of the Bible; electronic edition)

~ * ~ * ~
 As parents, we are to study the heart of each child to the depth of feeling it’s every beat. Where did we ever get the idea that our children came to us as "blank-slate" material and we could "write" on them the path we had chosen for them? 
The reality is that our children have a unique temperament already developed before their birth. Just as physical features are inherited (daddy’s eyes, mom’s nose, grandpa’s chin, etc.) so too is our emotional core a result of genetic inheritance (grandma’s temper, uncle’s timidness, etc.). A brief visit with parents of identical twins, or Mr. and Mrs. Duggar (parents of 19+ children) will verify that each child is born with his own unique temperament inherited from the genetic pool of their family line.

Temperament is the emotional core of who we are and is the determining factor of who we will become. Why? Because everything we learn and everything we are exposed to in life is first filtered through our individual temperament before we come to our own personal conclusions about life.
Understanding temperament is the key to discovering the reasons why we are the way we are. As parents, it is wise for us to discover that unique temperament trait of each child, and then work with that core temperament to prayerfully develop the character of our children. It’s not enough to know that little Johnny is the quiet soul, who requires little discipline while Jim-Bob is stubborn and only constant discipline keeps him inline. "Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right." (Proverbs 20:11) is the biblical admonition to get to know your child for the individual he/she already is.

Temperament is not a word you will find in the Bible but the examples of different temperament traits are very much revealed in scripture. Take for example Mary and Martha, who were sisters, their interaction with Christ revealed their different temperaments.
In John 11:17-45 notice that both sisters make the exact same statement to Christ, "Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died." (John 11:21 and 32) but notice their different interactions with the Lord. Martha is almost confrontational with the Lord while Mary humbly falls at His feet. Martha responds with head-knowledge and "recites" what she has heard while Mary’s response is weeping and silence, she doesn’t speak another word.

Then there is the temperament example of Jacob and Esau, twin brothers born to Isaac and Rebekah (Genesis 25:21-23).
These twins were as different spiritually as they were physically and God reveled to Rebekah that "two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people" was the prophecy the Lord God had given to Rebekah concerning her unborn sons. The difference in the brothers was not brought on by the favoritism of the parents, they were already different, and they were already known by God (Psalm 139:13-17).

Proverbs 22:6 "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it."

Recognizing that this verse is speaking about temperament opens the realization that we’ve got more to do in exploring the emotional depths of our children. 
They have emotional strengths and weaknesses that need to be balanced. They have spiritual struggles that need guidance. It’s not enough to put them on the right path, or expose them to the right people, their journey requires Dad and Mom not only to discipline their minds, but to disciple their hearts.


Jessi said...

Excellent post. I want to get that temperament book from you again sometime and read it with this in mind.

Jane Coley said...

You are very welcome to borrow the books, there are several to choose from.

Lou Ann Keiser said...

This is probably the best explanation I have ever read about that verse. I totally agree that each child has a "way they should go" and that it is our job to encourage them in the right way. It's each child's ultimate decision to do right or wrong in each life situation. First, he needs to accept Christ. But, this is a personal decision, not something handed down to him. Then, he has other options and decisions. Excellent, well thought-out. I loved the poem at the beginning and your list of Biblical fathers and sons. Very complete.

Also, I noticed we have a lot in common--age, wedding date, missions, empty nesters, etc. I will enjoy reading more of your blog posts.

Jane Coley said...

Thank you Lou Ann for your kind comments. And it's amazing that we have so much in common. Hope you enjoy your visits here. ~ God bless.