Teach a child how to follow the right way; even when he is old, he will stay on course. (Proverbs 22:6 VOICE)
I used to think this verse "insured" us parents our children would always follow the Lord, never deviate from their faith, avoid sin, and find the best of acquaintances who would help them stay "on course" in their life. Just teaching a child "how to follow" doesn't always ensure they will follow, but I do think it lays the foundation for there to always be some sense of "inner-niggling" whenever they have veered enough off course to warrant a re-examining of their choices. God doesn't issue "insurance policies" to us as parents, guaranteeing our children won't engage in certain behaviors which bring harm or hurt into their lives. He does guarantee his grace is sufficient to go with them into those places and to deliver them when they cry out!
Even a teacher has to learn the lesson first - and oftentimes "relearn" it several more times until it becomes so easily recalled and reapplied that it is like second-nature to them. As I made my way through the grocery store yesterday, there was a mother and a son, each seeming to have a little bit of a different agenda for their shopping trip. The boy was about 10 or so, and desired nothing more than to spend some time in the aisle where toys, summer water games, and the like are displayed. From the moment they entered the store (and I mean that literally), the mother and son were at odds about the "agenda" each would follow. She wanted her Starbucks first, then a trip through the vegetable aisle, followed by a trip down the meat and dairy aisle, and then to the more mundane aisles housing boxed and canned goods.
As they made their way through the store, I seemed to be constantly crossing paths with them. What made me notice them each and every time was the pained look on his face, her repeated reminders that he could not have his way, and the seemingly never-ending lecture about how she had things to accomplish and he could not ask her one more time to look at those things down that aisle he longed to visit. It was a repeated reminder of "I am the mom" and "You are the child - you will do as you are told". Now, he wasn't throwing a temper, nor was he being overly vocal. He simply asked every so often if he could please (and I did hear please at least once) go down that aisle. Now, I don't know her total agenda, but she was rather leisurely in her shopping and coffee drinking, so I am not thinking her objection to his request was based on being time-constrained.
What stuck out so clearly to me is how easy it is to "lecture" our lessons, but how difficult it is for us to truly connect with the child to understand what they might be desiring, walking through, etc. He just wasn't letting up in his request and she wasn't about to let up in her lecturing about being the mother and him just doing as she said. What makes us think we can just "hurl" lessons at our children and think it will somehow "stick"? There is a connection between the lesson and the intended learner of that lesson which can only be made when the teacher makes the connection "three-way". God has a way of getting into our space, not in a "I am God and you are the child" kind of way, but in a way which first makes the connection and then begins to connect the lesson within the framework of the foundation created within that relationship.
Training doesn't happen because someone barks out orders to us. It happens because we come to value their input, appreciate their presence, understand their heart, and connect frequently enough in an open way so as to be real with each other. We never know when the lesson we are teaching will taken on meaning and bring life into another's life - but we do know if we are faithful to the relationship FIRST, we stand a much better chance of "training up" in a way which will help them "stay the course" as they are on their own. Just sayin!