I don't think we can become wise overnight, but in the development of our lives, we learn to embrace truths and live well. In turn, we bring honor to our parents - if not our earthly father or mother, then our heavenly Father is honored immensely! We are "parented" by more than just our earthly parents in this life, so if you did not have the best of parents on this earth, you still have a pretty awesome chance of turning out pretty well when you come under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit. Parenting is a pretty scary thing - I know, because I am one! You get this new life, all squiggly and warm, looking to you to do the best job possible (whatever that is), and then you embark on this lifelong journey of trying to figure out how to raise this blessed bundle of joy. Some parents aren't ready for their "mission" on this life, doing a pretty poor job with it from the get-go. Others embrace it head on and seemingly get along pretty well in those first formative years. Still others will venture into the unknown with fear and trepidation, bumbling along the best they know how, all the while unaware of what some of their choices may yield for their child in the end. Whatever the "parenting style" you were raised under, know this - God can "undo" the wrong stuff our parents did with us or to us in our lives just as much as he can magnify the good stuff!
Dear child, if you become wise, I’ll be one happy parent. My heart will dance and sing to the tuneful truth you’ll speak. (Proverbs 23:15-16 MSG)
The hope of a parent - that their child will become wise. How is this wisdom manifest? In the truth the child speaks. At first this may not seem very significant, but our words reveal a great deal about our heart. The soundness of heart is often betrayed by the words we speak, is it not? There are times people try to deliver such polished speeches, believing their words will mask the underlying misery of their lives. In reality, our words can only do so much to mask what is truthfully within the recesses of our hearts - in time, the truth will come out. As we have already explored, there is no greater reward for the child than to study the Word and to have it develop deeply ingrained foundational truths within his heart. The "soundness" of heart is determined by the things we hold as truths upon which we base our lives - so when we get the truth IN, it will eventually come OUT in the words we speak.
Our passage today deals not with the "rightness" of our earthly parenting as much as it deals with getting the right foundation worked into our lives so that we bring honor to God in all we do. When the right foundation is allowed to permeate our lives, we begin to see character formation which will yield "solid" decision making, "right" actions, and "disciplined" living. In turn, our words reflect this foundation. The principles upon which our life are lived are ever so important. As a parent, I tried to instill some of the basics into the lives of my children, but trust me, I had to learn some of these basics right alongside them! It wasn't that my parents didn't try to teach me those basics when I was younger, but I just didn't fully embrace them in my youth! Things like thinking of another instead of always thinking of your own wants or desires, or perhaps being truthful and above board in your dealings. These were life lessons taught, but not fully "caught" until I realized how much my "modeled" behavior influenced the words I spoke to my children!
"Principled living" comes not in the flash of an eye - it is developed in the course of time. Principled words are an outflow of the embracing of the principles one is taught - when those principles are finally caught. We cannot always count on our earthly parents to have modeled the behaviors we needed to catch, but we can count on our heavenly Father to have provided the individuals into our lives who will help us to model the behaviors we need to catch onto in our lives. God is faithful, even when our earthly parents are not. Can we be "un-parented" from the standpoint of letting go of modeled behaviors which were not good or honoring to God? Yes, I believe we can. In trusting God's oversight in our lives, embracing truth as he reveals it, and in letting go of the wrongs we experienced at the hands of those who did model the right behavior, we can move forward. It won't be an easy journey, though. Modeled behavior "sticks" in our minds for a while and must be "unlearned" over time - just as it was learned. What we can count on is that truth embraced today will multiply until the "truth" we once believed to be reality in our lives becomes the evidence of the "true truth" God works into our lives.
In time, as truth is worked "into" our lives, it will begin to be manifest in the words we speak "out" of our lives. Just sayin!