“Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he grows older, he will not abandon it.” Proverbs 22:6 NASB
“Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” James Baldwin
Gotta say I internalized some very harmful images and beliefs from my mom. She had the power. She had sarcasm that could split a boulder and rip a child’s heart to shreds. She was the foundation and epitome of my Black Sheepness and eternal shame. There was physical abuse but mostly emotional abuse. She trained me up in the way I would go and it was disastrous! It was unconscious! It was a pattern of abuse from her family tree—that’s my family tree too. The cycle raged on. And rage it was. Of course, as a child, I had no clue. Dad was just absent. He brought home the paycheck, kept the home and cars going and that’s how it was. He was present physically but not mentally and emotionally. They were very flawed individuals that had no grip on healthy ways of being in the world but not of the world. They were in extreme pain. Their parents were too. A vicious, dead-end cycle.
No clue how valuable and precious children are. No clue how valuable and precious they were. How valuable and precious you are.
Then I had my son. Like the proverbial pendulum, I went the other way from abuse to indulgence. However, I was seeking God, went to a faithful church, received counseling, placed my son in a Christian school. The good: I modeled a work ethic, spiritual hunger and curiosity, worked with my son on homework, had fun like fishing, swimming, playing games. At the church he met good men who modeled fatherhood, confidence, accountability and affection. All was not lost. My son is a grown man now with a beautiful wife and family, pillar in the community and loves. Perfectly? Heavens no! He needs grace as much as the next person. But the abuse cycle is broken.
It works both ways. Train up a child…
We can train up ourselves with our father’s help. He longs to love us and make us more like his son. We can train up our children with our father’s help because he loves them and wants to make them more like his son. Our father has given us everything we need for “life and godliness.” Community.
Sometimes we need church parents to guide us. Sometimes we need to parent church kids. Most of all, we need to believe in how loved we are and model that love to others, especially our children.
“We draw people to Christ not by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.”
May we demonstrate this above all with our children.
No matter the childhood tragedies in our lives, help us to remember the Prodigal Son’s father as the picture of you. Help us to remember what the father said to the Prodigal, “My son, everything I have is yours.” Help us to remember the father embracing his son in front of all the religious elite. Help us to remember you are this father. May we live this with our families and teach them you’re always with them. We can’t always be with our children but you can You are.