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Train up a dad

Feed your children the one thing needful and trust God to keep them faithful.

Last week, at a neighboring congregation’s chili supper, my seven-year-old called attention to a verse stenciled on the wall: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6 KJV). I hadn’t noticed it.

He asked, “What about Judas? He departed from the way. How’s that passage true?”

I tried explaining, “Most of the proverbs aren’t so much promises. They’re more descriptions of how things generally work.” His curiosity satisfied, he resumed making room on his plate for second helpings of Jell-O®.

Why do we react to that Bible verse looking for ways for it to be untrue, like my son’s question? Our minds quickly search for dreadful exceptions: sons or daughters departing from “the way.”

There’s another reaction. My reaction last week: ignoring it. For all I cared, the stenciled verse could’ve been 15 feet tall instead of 3. So often, I ignore opportunities to set my children on God’s path, the “way” that God says I can expect he’ll never let them “depart from.” My Savior says I can give my kids the only thing they really need, promising “it will not be taken away from” them (Luke 10:42). I hardly take him seriously.

I need somewhere to hide these sins. That place is behind Jesus’ perfect love for children.

One picture that seems to be behind that Hebrew word translated “Train up” is to get a mouth used to something: breaking in a horse, so its mouth gets used to having a rope or bit in it or getting a child ready for solid food by rubbing the sweet juice of a date on the child’s gums.

That’s a vivid picture for me. We buckled our six-month-old daughter into the highchair. She was ready for solid food. So while the rest of us ate spaghetti and meatballs, she took a couple bites of a banana. She didn’t know what to do then—both bites ended up back on the highchair tray. I’m sure we’ll have her try again. If she doesn’t care for bananas, the rest of the produce aisle awaits! We want her to like fruits and veggies all her life long.

How does that picture apply to my spiritual opportunities to train up my children?

Some days, when I reject the lie that I’m too busy to pray for my children, I remember the “fruit of the Spirit”—“love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22,23). I pray about each child, about the fruit that particular child seems to be growing least. Sometimes I even have sense to plan a conversation—over McBreakfast or while driving to camp—with a particular child about the fruit I’ve been praying they’d develop.

Some of my boys are too big to buckle in and spoon-feed. One is taller than I am. But they’re still not too old to fit into Proverbs 22:6, a verse which clearly calls dads like me to enormous optimism. The ever-constant Lord, the I AM, in his great love for me and my children, wants me to get my hopes up—when I’m praying for my kids, talking with them, and working with them to increase their taste for the Spirit’s fruit. I should joyfully and confidently expect that the I AM will keep that taste in their mouths even when I’m in heaven and they’re old and gray. He won’t let them “depart from it.”

Author: Christopher Doerr
Volume 104, Number 6
Issue: June 2017

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