“Train up a child in the way he should go and even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6
Back in Bible days, Hebrew midwives would take olive oil or crushed dates and put it into a bowl, dip her finger in it, and then rub it on the palate, gums, and roof of the mouth of a newborn. That flavor would create a sucking response. What the midwives were doing was creating a thirst and a desire for more food. It gave the children a hunger to eat.
Our job as parents is to develop in our children a hunger, taste, and desire for God and His Word. This does not mean we can force-feed our children the Bible. That never works. We must teach our children early in life the excitement of the true stories found in the Bible and the joy that comes from studying about God and knowing Him.
What is the purpose of this training? “Train up a child in the way he should go…” The whole book of Proverbs is about wisdom. Wisdom is loving God, knowing God, finding God’s will and doing it. That is the way we should all go. We are all born wanting to go our own way, but we should train children to go in the way they “should go,” not in the way they would want to go.
So many parents cling to the last part of this verse, “…Even when he is old he will not depart from it.” This is a proverb…a reliable principle, not a promise. Generally speaking, even though children may stray away at times, they will never go totally away from God if they truly know Him. I absolutely believe that a person who truly knows Jesus will never completely turn from faith in Him. However, for many parents this verse has become a sledgehammer of guilt. They have a prodigal child and wonder what they did wrong.
Just because we train our children up in the way they should go does not mean that is the way they will go. There are exceptions to this principle. Kids grow up and have a mind of their own. Even God’s first children, the Israelites, rebelled against Him; and He is the only perfect Father. There is only one thing we are in control of as parents and that is the way we train our children. The rest we must leave up to God, remembering that He loves our children more than we ever could.
Dear Father, I want to be very intentional with giving my children spiritual direction so that they know how to follow you. Grant me the wisdom and the words I need to teach them what it looks like to have a close relationship with you and to listen to your guidance. In Jesus' name, amen.