Here’s a verse every Bible-believing parent knows: Prov. 22: 6, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
If you are like me, you could quote this verse, but you wonder exactly what it means. Is it a guarantee that if I raise my child correctly he or she will go through life and never stray from the Lord? Or is it, as I have heard it said, if he strays he will return? In meditating a little deeper on that this morning, I concluded a few things. The meaning must be wrapped up in the meaning of “train up.” The word originally carried the idea of “a narrowing.” This world, with help from the Devil and our own flesh, throws a wide stream of thought about life at us. Much of it bad, some of it is ridiculous, and most of it is worthless. The parents job, then, is to narrow that flow to what is true and right. We train them to see the world before the Lord as it really is, not as most are deceived to believe it is. This task is daunting (or at least it seems so to this father of six), but this verse surely says good things can follow the effort.
So the question becomes, how do we “train up?” Are you like me and are ever trying to “teach up?” Hey, it makes sense to me, so why can’t these knucklehead kids see it like I do? Think of how the military trains up soldiers. The trainers are out on the field with those being trained all involved in what soldiers do. Those drill sergeants are battle hardened and train up in what they live and breath. I don’t think our military today would be as efficient as it is were the new recruits trained in a classroom by out-of-shape guys who had never fired a gun! Run the gauntlet ahead of me and let me follow is the way to train me.
I recently read and reviewed a book about troubled teens (https://reaganreview.wordpress.com/2012/05/03/hope-for-parents-of-troubled-teens-by-connie-rae-book-review/) and quite frankly, it spooks me. I love those six rascals of mine and so want the Lord to use them and see that they follow Him all their days. I “teach up”! I’ve told them everything imaginable. I wonder if the greater need is for me to run ahead and let them see me exercise faith, or demonstrate the victory the Lord can give our lives even in daily living. Will 5 minutes of inexcusable impatience undo an hour of careful teaching? Of course the teaching should stay, but does the trainer even know what he is talking about? If the Lord is making no perceivable difference in my life, does my teaching ring hollow? What I might make you believe about my spiritual prowess will never fly with those who live under my roof. Whatever this verse really means and promises is tied to my training up my children.
The other word on which the meaning of our verse hinges is “depart.” That word originally meant “to turn off.” If I train by teaching and real demonstration, the Bible says they will not depart. Perhaps the verse means more, but at the bare minimum it says they can’t turn off what they learned when they were truly trained up. If they stray from the Lord, or take up drinking, or live with sexual looseness, there will be something deep inside them that is probably not true of the wild peer group around them–they know the truth. They know (if it is real in me) that my God is real, that I wasn’t just “whistling Dixie”, but the Lord is the focal point of my life, a life that is better than the one lived far from God. Perfect? Far from it! But somehow far better than I would have been without the Lord? Obviously (or so it should be).
I guess this dashes the cold water of reality right in our faces. It comes up in every area of life —everything Christianity has to offer me is tied tightly to my relationship to Jesus Christ. There are no promises in the Bible that will do me much good with a disengaged fellowship with Christ. No good can spring from my life to anyone else, including my children, outside of what is real between me and my Lord. A lot rides on it too. The lives of my children being at the top of the list.
Lord help me to train up my children.