Upbringing makes a definite difference in the outcome of the life which will follow, does it not? Those brought up in a home where respect for authority is modeled, as well as taught, often develop a strong respect of their own for the authorities in their lives. Sure, there are times of rebellion and a lack of total obedience, because each of us is human. In general, the child brought up to respect authority and to be honoring of those God places in those positions in our lives will eventually return to the morals they have been seen modeled. So, how much more important is the message of faith we model for those who are influenced by our behavior, words, and actions? They may not exactly be our "off-spring" in the literal sense of the word, but when a younger believer aligns with a more mature believer, the opportunity to model behavior which will help in the "upbringing" of the younger exists. We need to be aware of how we "pass on" what God has entrusted to us - it is caught by those who look to us as their examples in the faith.
You’ve been raised on the Message of the faith and have followed sound teaching. Now pass on this counsel to the followers of Jesus there, and you’ll be a good servant of Jesus. Stay clear of silly stories that get dressed up as religion. Exercise daily in God—no spiritual flabbiness, please! Workouts in the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever. You can count on this. Take it to heart. This is why we’ve thrown ourselves into this venture so totally. We’re banking on the living God, Savior of all men and women, especially believers. (I Timothy 4:6-10 MSG)
Upbringing is the season in life when an individual may be said to be in their "formative years". In the sense of another brother or sister in the Lord, their "formative years" may be quite early in their walk, but there are also seasons of "growth" in which their growth is a direct influence of what they see modeled in others. The basis of growth is the foundation of sound teaching - good examples to follow. Sometimes we need more than just a good example and a lot of good words to direct us, though. We have to take what we see and hear to heart - otherwise it is just "neat stuff", but not really helping to form a good foundation for "aligned growth".
I have a rather unruly crop of hair - with several cowlicks my hairdresser must work around as she cuts it into a style I can wear. Those cowlicks are a direct result of the hair follicles not growing in "identical patterns" to the rest of the hair on my head. As a result, they kind of "stick out" and give me a little frustration when styling it. At some point in my development as a wee babe, those cowlicks got their start. At an age when I really did not know much about my hair, those hair follicles were choosing to bring forth growth totally out of "alignment" with the other hairs on my head. Once their growth pattern was established, it wasn't realistic to "undo" it.
The same may be said about our spiritual growth. We have a "formative period" in which we find ourselves laying a foundation of growth. What we don't realize is how closely we align our lives after the good examples we have set for us, and how easily we can determine to just do our own thing. The issue with doing our own thing - we get "spiritual cowlicks"! We get areas that look like they belong in our lives (just like the cowlicks on my head), but they really are "mal-aligned" - there is some rebellion deeper inside that keeps us from "lining up" with what we know should be the pattern we are to follow. As a person ages, those cowlicks become more pronounced on the top of your head because your hair "coarsens". I wonder if our "spiritual cowlicks" become more pronounced in time because we become a little "hardened" in doing things the same way we have always done them?
It takes way more "product" in my hair to control it than I really would like to use, but the truth is, I am a little vain! I like "good hair days"! Would that I were to be as concerned about the spiritual growth in my life, I might just have some real break-throughs which would help me to move forward in areas where I have been stagnant a while! As a matter of fact, I think we might all have a little tendency to need these types of break-throughs in our spiritual lives - sometimes not really recognizing how much we have deviated from where we should be. Any "unruliness" in our lives will stick out - it is just not possible to hide it forever. We can mask it for a while, but at some point - it shows up!
For time and eternity, humans will deal with their cowlicks by keeping their hair a little longer, essentially hiding the unruly portion; or perhaps they will shave it off in an attempt to just get rid of it. The problem is at the root - nothing we do truly affects the cowlick we might have until we get at the root. The root is formed "in utero" - while we are in our developmental stages. Maybe this is why having the right examples to follow early in our walk makes all the difference in getting us off to the right start in our growth! Just sayin!