“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
Thoughts from Amanda Cook
Behind the Scenes
I loved this verse because it sounded like a guarantee that my children will eventually turn back to God. But upon further study, I realize that this verse doesn’t serve as a guarantee and actually means something much different than I originally thought.
According to a commentary by David Guzik, the phrase in the way he should go doesn’t just mean that we should train them to follow God’s ways. While that is certainly true, it also signifies that we should train them according to their physical and mental attributes. So, to train up a child, we need to discover their individual strengths and develop them so they can reach an appropriate vocational choice.
Train up can also meant to dedicate or consecrate. So, as we develop their specific strengths, we commit them to a divine purpose – that of living for God. But even if we dedicate them, we cannot guarantee they will walk in the way we wish. Just ask any parent of teenagers.
Here’s where it gets tricky – when we look at the end of this verse, we want to rest in the proclamation that when he is old he will not depart from it. However, God can never be contrary to His character, and in His love for us, He gives us free will. Our children can choose to walk in the way we raise them OR they can choose to exercise their free will and live outside of God’s will.
Make it Real
I’ll be honest, I want this verse to be a guarantee that my children will eventually return to what they’ve been taught and have a relationship with Jesus. And it’s incredibly hard to give my children room to make their own choices in this. I believe that I have raised them modeling my love of Christ. I believe that I have focused on their strengths and gifts so that they can have an appropriate vocational career. Where I have trouble believing is whether they will ever believe as I do and have a relationship with Jesus.
But here is where I am reminded of the story of the Prodigal Son (you can find this story in Luke 15). A man had two sons, and one of them wanted his inheritance before his father’s death to spend as he saw fit. He took his money, ran off, and squandered it away. When he came to a point where he was so hungry that he longed to eat what the pigs were eating, he decided to return home and ask his father if he could work as one of his hired hands. In verse 20 it says, “while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.”
The father in this story gave his son room to make his own choice. He gave him room to run and to exercise his free will. But he was also there when the son decided to return. You see, the father wasn’t in the kitchen getting dinner ready, or at the store shopping, or in the fields plowing. No, the father was on the porch – waiting, searching the horizon, longing for his son to return. And that is our Father! He will give His children free will to turn away from Him. But He is still waiting, searching, longing for them to return to Him.
So no, this verse may not be a guarantee that our children will return to Him and His ways. But we do have a guarantee that our Father doesn’t give up on them. He is waiting for our children, His children, to come back and BE a part of His family, to enjoy their inheritance in Him, and to sit at the table with Him.
Do you have children who have turned away? Have you turned away? Do you know the Father is waiting for you?
End in Prayer
I am incredibly overwhelmed that You would wait longingly for Your children to return to You. You don’t need us. But I thank You that You delight in us. I thank You that You love my children more than I could ever imagine and that You want them more than I could ever dream. Lord help me to walk in Your ways, show Your love, and be the model You would have me to be for my precious children. Lord if there is anyone reading this that feels distraught and hopeless about their children, I ask that You give them hope and joy in the waiting. I pray that You help us to be expectant in all that You can and want to do in our children.
Lord, I rest in You!