Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Wonderfully Unique

There are few verses in the Bible that have caused more guilt, more sadness, and more trepidation than Proverbs 22:6, "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." Unfortunately, there are few verses in the Bible that have been as misunderstood, misapplied, and mishandled as much at Proverbs 22:6. To often it has been seen as the absolute litmus test of parenting, so every parent with grown up kids who turned out bad beats themselves with this verse, and every parent with small children lives in fear that it will indict them some day.
This verse shouldn't be taken as a black and white judgment of parenting. The emphasis isn't on the cause and effect nature of parenting, though it's obviously included, but on the recognizing of the individual uniqueness of each child. The word's "way he should go" should be understood to refer to "how that child is bent" - their personality, abilities, and interests. Every child is different. Cookie cutting parenting isn't any more effective then cookie cutting school teaching. Parents must guide and disciple each child understanding their differences and their unique personalities.
When our children where small, we never tried to point them in any particular area of interest in terms of careers or occupations. We stressed excelling, serving, and glorifying God, but we never tried to push them to be anything they didn't want to be.
I have nothing against naming a son "Junior" as in Mike Root, Jr., but as a preacher, I was intentional about not wanting our son to feel pushed into becoming a preacher, or anything other than what his heart and talents led him to become. All three of our children followed their passions and we did everything we could to encourage and empower them. We never wanted them to walk in our shadow, but rather in the footsteps of Jesus. Even then, they each had to be led and encouraged somewhat differently.
Train a child? Certainly. But sometimes that training involves getting out of the way. Sometimes you help them grow and sometimes you let them grow - depending how that child is bent.

No comments: