So I thought a great way to celebrate the 100th post on the blog would be to introduce a new tag; parenthood.
I’m learning a lot about parenthood, perhaps because Alycia and I are so blessed to have such a ‘gentle teacher’ in Joshua. The ultimate teacher though has been God and his Word and this morning I feel he really challenged my assumptions about one of the most popular verses in the scriptures regarding parenthood:
Proverbs 22:16 Direct your children on to the right path and when they are older, they will not leave it.
The first thing that this reveals is that God greatly and deeply values the heart, mind and soul of a child. God wants to be our real ‘first love’, first awe and it’s my responsibility to Josh to provide every opportunity for him to do so.
That said however, what amazed me this morning is how this particular verse does not define what the ‘right path’ actually is.
It allows us to supply our own interpretation of what that path is.
In doing so, our true understanding of God is revealed.
With that in mind, I have noticed that for most of my life, I have interpreted the phrase ‘right path’ in pretty much moralistic terms. Let me also add that I haven’t encountered a whole lot of Christian literature that would violently disagree with this view.
But that view was/is rubbish.
Simply teaching kids ‘right from wrong’ is not good enough. In fact it’s maybe the best way to inoculate kids against the Gospel message. Because it isn’t the Gospel.
The ‘right path’ is not law but grace.
Look at Jesus’ method dealing with kids:
Mark 10:13-16 People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took the children in his arms,placed his hands on them and blessed them.
Here’s the thing, when those kids grow up into adulthood, how are they going to see God? Isn’t it obvious, they will see God as he who is with them and who cares for them. Jesus sets their mind on a trajectory of intimacy and faith in one who is pleased to give little children the Kingdom and who encourages childlike faith.
On the other hand, I am constantly running into adults who were once taught ‘right and wrong’ by religious organisations but whom do not want a bar of anything to do with God. In youth ministry, I have met far less on the run from grace as those on the run from law.
Let me pause for a moment here, and admit that I have also met wonderful Christian folks who are parents of kids who have indeed walked away from families, homes and faith suffused with grace.
Their pain is unimaginable.
Their prayer is unrelenting.
May they find comfort in the knowledge that one day, if their kids hear the voice of grace, because of their faithfulness….they recognise it and ‘come home’
That being said, I am still challenged by this verse. It reveals what I think is the core of the Christian faith, because whatever that is, kids will pick it up. Maybe, this verse is also an invitation to parents to search the rest of the Scriptures to know what the ‘right path’ really is.
I am also challenged by the obvious truth that legalism is easier to teach a child because it requires far less love, patience and spiritual maturity to teach it and therefore doesn’t require an ever deepening relationship with God and ever growing Spiritual fruit. In short, moralistic teaching doesn’t demand our reliance on God.
On the other hand, there is no way I can possibly model grace and indeed model Christ unless I constantly receive love and power from God through the Spirit in order to be a Godly parent.
As this sinks in an opportunity for perspective arises. All times of duress, stress and frustration through my parenting journey are redeemed into opportunities to draw upon God’s strength.
This is victory over the lie of self-sufficiency.
Choosing the right path is critical as much for the parent as the child. As I remained on the couch it occurred to me that one of the main reasons why I look forward to my time on the couch with God each morning, granting the space for the Spirit to speak,….was a mum and a dad who refused to stop showing me the grace of God, even when I was at my worst.
How could I leave it?