Prerequisite to the Promise

Prerequisite to the Promise

by Dr. Curt Brannan

Here is God’s promise: Train up a child in the way he should go, and even when he is old he will not depart from it.   Most parents I have known have, at some point in their lives, claimed Proverbs 22:6 as their mantra of hope that their child will “come out OK.” I have heard this most often, not when the child is young, sweet, compliant and “innocent,” but later. In the early years it’s difficult to think of them ever being a problem. More often parents see this promise as critical as their children begin to move out into life, become more independent, and begin making their own decisions and choices.  And often, these decisions are very different from what we had hoped.

The obvious prerequisite to this promise is that we must “train” them in the “way” they ought to go. Certainly this means all the things I have so often heard; teaching them about God, telling them about His ways, keeping them in church, being sensitive to their interests and talents and helping them develop these “bents.”  But there is more!

Space won’t allow me to say all that needs to be said, but let me focus on just one critical aspect of this parenting task – children becoming responsible individuals. I fear the hardest part of “training” is too often missed: training must begin early.  Frankly, it’s too late to begin when the child arrives at that place where he or she must make choices and act apart from the physical presence and guidance of the parent. Training that leads to a responsible and godly life begins when they are still “angelic” in our eyes – at the very time our greatest desire is to protect them. And that’s hard!

My youngest daughter was only seven (in second grade), when she and a friend went to our neighborhood store and “shoplifted” a card. My first thought was denial. It must have been the other girl – my daughter wouldn’t. But she did! It turns out that this precious girl, the joy of my life, who knew her Bible verses, loved to sing songs about Jesus and be in Sunday School had a sinful nature!

My initial denial was followed by personal embarrassment. After all, I was a local pastor – what will people think if this gets out? And then there was my protective instinct. I just wanted to make it go away. Why not just call and tell the store she had “forgotten to pay” and I would be by to take care of it? That way it wouldn’t have to be a big deal. But after her mom and I discussed it, we knew what had to happen. This was a training moment. That afternoon she and I walked to the store hand in hand. I told the owner my daughter wanted to tell him something and then stood back. And there she stood, my seven year old, confessing that she was a shoplifter, asking his forgiveness and paying him for the card with her own money. It was one of the hardest things I ever did.

After I wrote the paragraphs above I talked with my daughter who is now Headmaster of Seoul Foreign School, in Seoul, Korea (a Christian School). I asked if she remembered that day and if I could share it with you. She laughed and said, “I remember every part of it. It was a great training moment, Dad. Please use it. Too many parents think their child would never lie or cheat or do anything wrong.”

A child that isn’t trained to be responsible for the choices they make will “depart” from the way. Training must start when they say “No!” to the directions of the one who God says they are to honor, their parents, and continue through the years as they grow. If they are taught that they are somehow exempt, the probability is they will pay a terrible price. Some will discover reality like the 18 year old whose attorney father never let him experience the consequences of his actions. When stopped for a traffic violation he laughed at the officer, tried to bribe him and then threatened him with “Do you know who my father is? He will have your badge.” But it didn’t happen that way. He went to jail.

“Train up a child in the way he should go. . .”  It’s hard, but God’s “way” of living is one of the great gifts a parent can give.