Train up a Child?

“Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray.” (Proverbs 22:6)

When reading the Bible, genre matters.  If you don’t know what biblical prophecy’s about, you might think Revelations is a prediction of future history, and end up writing a foolish and profitable series of books about the end times.

You also might think the book of Proverbs contains God’s thinking, instead of humans’.  They say it belongs in the category “Wisdom Literature,” but when I read lines like the one above, I’m fairly certain God shelves it under “Jokes and Humor.”  I mean, does anyone really believe that raising children is as simple as “training” them right?

I’m pretty sure God doesn’t.  Look at Adam and Eve.  No matter what kind of parenting technique you like best, God tried it.

Love and nurture?  Check.

Attachment parenting?  Dr. Sears would approve.

Corporal punishment?  Tried it.

And lots more.

And just look how we turned out.  Sure, some of us, the saints and others, wound up golden children…the rest of us, not so much.

God’s learned the hard way there’s just no telling how the kids will turn out in the end, even when the parents are perfect.  I think if God were to rewrite that line, it would say something half as pretentious and twice as difficult:

“Love your children hard no matter what, and somehow everybody’ll get there in the end.”

Holy God, you have loved us, and loved us, and loved us no matter how we’ve turned out or turned away, and that has been the saving of the world.  Grant that we all might do the same with the children you’ve entrusted to us.  Amen.

– Reflection by Rev  Quinn G. Caldwell, from StillSpeaking

Alarm Bells

Looking back, alarm bells should have sounded many times earlier in my life.

  • Before I had any personal relationship with God, I knew chapters of the Bible by memory and could tell you why and how he created the earth in six literal days (and why I was sure God was in fact a ‘he’).
  • Before I know much about the Bible, I could tell you why the King James Version was the only Bible written by God and could defend this with handfuls of significant and critical errors the wishy-washy liberal translators of every other version chose (read: ‘purposefully chose’) to make.
  • Before I knew anything about sex and intimate sexual relationship in the context of a ‘Christian marriage’, I had read and heard graphic descriptions and explanations of homosexual acts, methods and motivations—uncensored—from material written by experts in Christian ‘family values’.
  • Before I had any understanding of the love, generosity and grace of God, I learned to fear him who had me in his hand, holding me (as it were) over the cauldron of hell’s fire.

I say all this as a warning to all who have the awesome privilege of being parents.  Be aware that your children may interpret what you intend as good, solid, Christian instruction in a way that actually distorts the reality of the loving, gracious, inclusive nature of God. Encourage your child in growing a deep relationship with God, not simply an intellectual understanding of the Divine. Show them the Bible not as a history book, or a textbook, or even a guidebook for life, but a story of people’s desire to connect with God and God’s love for them. Yes, people get it wrong and you need to teach your children to not be afraid of making mistakes or taking a wrong turn–put simply, this is what is included in the package we call ‘being human.’

Demonstrate to your children what a loving relationship looks like and encourage them to think, ask questions, seek rather than supply them with your questions and your answers to those questions. Show them God by being a loving, forgiving, gracious parent, not someone to be feared and mindlessly obeyed. Demonstrate the love of God by your acceptance of others and the diversity they bring with them. Affirm everyone’s worth and speak positively of other people’s journeys. Don’t be satisfied with providing rote answers but encourage contemplation and reflection. Allow room for unanswered questions and don’t be satisfied with an answer just because it fits into your framework of understanding.

Above all, trust God to look after your children and to nurture them in their own unique faith journey. Their story will–and should be–different than yours since they have been created as individuals with distinctive personalities and gifts. The One who made them, knows them, and will complete that which has been begun in them.

I Hope

I’ve never been that good at finding the right words to say.
Sometimes I stumble, muttering something that halfway sounds appropriate, but consists muchly of “ums,” “ers” and stutters.
And sometimes I find the right words a few minutes too late–when I get into the car after the funeral, or the minute the person I’m attempting-to-be-speaking to walks away.
It takes me a while sometimes to come up with coherent comments.
My brother and his wife lost their second baby this week. Jade had miscarried last year and, when she found out she was pregnant again, we were all excited–yet reserved our excitement, knowing what could happen. This time the baby held on five more weeks.
Long enough for us to begin to think it was safe to be happy. Long enough for Jim and Jade to be more conifident that all would be OK.
And then, while Vicki & I were out to lunch on Wednesday, we got the news. We were devastated for them. Our hearts ached for their loss. What could we do to help them? What could we say that would ease the pain of what they were going through?
I still can’t answer those questions.
I haven’t spoken to Jim yet. Mum says he’s taking it very hard. I can only imagine how he feels because I’ve never known what it’s like to so desperately want a child only to have your hopes and dreams dashed–not once, but twice.
I need to call him. I hope I can find the words to say when he picks up the phone. I hope the conversation won’t drift towards gadgets, work, weather, footy and anything but what is on our hearts.
I hope he can see past my attempts to find the right words and know that I feel his pain and know that God feels it too. I hope and pray that he can see that God is for him and Jade, not against them, and that somehow, through all of this loss, grief and pain, good will come.
I hope. I hope he can too.