Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.Proverbs 22:6 (ESV)
I grew up in faith. Child of Kiwi missionaries to Germany, whose hearts beat with the love of and for their Lord. They brought me, my two sisters and my three brothers up in Christ. We tangibly experienced the presence of God in and through them – precisely also through my parents literally leaving everything behind to follow their LORD.
I knew with one hundred percent certainty that my God existed. But despite this certainty I turned my back on Him more and more in my teenage years, as I exchanged God’s understanding for my own. Did my parents then not “train me up in the way [I] should go? And what is exactly “the way [our children] should go”?
When I returned to faith, with a one year old and four year old daughter, I dug deeply into this Proverb of King Solomon’s. It is then I discovered that for the Jewish people this Proverb called them to celebrate their adolescent child’s God-given calling.
I learnt that it had much more to do with releasing our coming of age children into God’s hands, for Him to determine their path. It was about giving them back into His hands – consecrating them unto Him, just as you would consecrate or dedicate a new building before it was opened up for use. The “way [our children] should go” is thus the path our God has already planned and chosen for them to fulfill His purpose for their lives.
It is precisely through the painful and narrow path God chose for me, that I have come to experientially know what I longed to deep down know as a child. I distinctly remember longing to deep down know the grace of God. That it is (Ephesians 2:8-9, ESV): “by grace [I,] have been saved through faith. And this is not [my] own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
Interestingly, when Abraham obeyed God in taking his only son up that hill, he was willing to give God what was most precious to him, and at the same time he trusted his God in that reverential fear of his to provide for him and for his son. For, he knew his God to be faithful to every Promise spoken.
I am sure he trembled, as he took those first few steps – but aren’t we admonished to work out our faith in fear and trembling? I think as the Spirit leads us onwards, our flesh will still rebell. But in that reverential fear that defies all logic, such peace comes as we release our children into the hands of our LORD, in whom all Promises are Yes and Amen.
Genesis 22:5 (NIV) shows us that Abraham went up that mountain, trusting God that he would come back down with his son. He speaks of “we” and not “I”: “He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.” He chose to walk by faith and not by sight.
When I was little, I read books about a country I had never visited: The Netherlands. My Prodigal journey took me to that country many years later, when I met the man in Switzerland that I would later marry in New Zealand: a Dutch man who loved me (and still loves me) in a way I had never known. He pursued me with a kind and merciful love I now know was and is of God.
No, he isn’t a believer, but a child of Prodigal parents. But precisely in that I see our God at work, showing not just me, but my husband’s family, that He is faithful to every Promise spoken over His beloved children from generation to generation. Now, like my Dad learnt to do with me, I am learning to walk by faith and not by sight. 1 Corinthians 7:14 continually reminds me to look for Jesus in my loved ones and I am finding evidence of Him daily:
“For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.
This past winter, I watched my little girls skate upon the frozen canals I read about when I was their age. I now know why my faith-filled Dad was so at peace and filled with such joy for me, as he gave me away to my unbelieving fiancée in marriage. He was releasing me into the hands of our God, trusting that we would walk back down that mountain together with a newborn faith and trust in our God. I think my parents both saw Jesus in my husband and in his parents, even then.
Yes, through my Prodigal journey that killed my faith and trust in myself to rebirth it in Christ alone, God has given me physical evidence for His Promise to us all. When we give our hearts to Christ, He remains faithful to us in our faithlessness because He cannot disown Himself (2 Timothy 2:13). For, when we give our hearts to Jesus, we are sealed by the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 1:13-14 (ESV) puts it this way:
13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
So, how do we “train up a child in the way he should go”? I believe, by recognizing that our children are gifts given to us from God, gifts He invites us to release back into His hands that He may bring about His much greater purpose for their lives that will defy all logic. And, one day, when we look back, we will be able to see that God’s thoughts and plans are so much higher and better than ours.
Now that I have my own children, my continual prayer is that God will do absolutely everything necessary for them to come to truly know Him – even if that means a painful path is set before them – and us as parents. I am inviting Him to determine their path and to help us as parents to continually surrender our thoughts and plans to see and celebrate His life at work in them.
My parents kept praying for me all those years. On my 59 year-old mother’s deathbed, as she surrendered absolutely everything to her LORD, I came face-to-face with the One true God. Through the palpable, gentle and loving peace of the Holy Spirit that fell upon my mother and myself, my hardened heart was broken open, right when God had me exactly where He wanted me.
As my mother experienced the kindness of our God, that led her to so much repentance and freedom in her final months, so I too experienced that same kindness through the power of the Holy Spirit falling upon her, and upon me.
In those final months of my Mum’s life, God gave me palpable evidence that He is never absent to us in our suffering. He showed me how He works in and through it to bless us and draw us ever closer to Him. He began opening my eyes to His Presence in places I had deemed Him absent.
I had forsaken His call to continue interceding through the pain of watching loved ones suffer. I had turned away to numb my pain in sin, believing my God had abandoned us. And yet, Christ continued interceding for, in and through me: lovingly guiding and shaping me through all those years I wandered in my blindness.
So, you see, my parents did train their daughter up in the way – God’s Way – she should go, from the very moment I was conceived. And therefore I have not departed from it.
For, my parents chose to put their trust, not in their own “perfect” understanding or their own “perfect” parenting, but in our truly perfect God and His truly incorruptible love for them, for me and for those God would yet weave our lives together with. In our God whose power is made perfect in weakness.
Thanks be to God to whom all glory and honor be, forever and ever, Amen.
Father, thank You for Your precious Promises to us. Thank You that You are the God who loves to awe us with Your sovereign display of power in and through our weakness. Thank You for Your incorruptible love that is expressed in Your unbreakable Promises to us.
Father, I ask You to send this testimony to the work of Your Son in me and my family out to all parents who are discouraged today. Speak to them in a personal Way and empower them to surrender their children into Your safe and holy hands. And bring others alongside them who build them up in Your holy Word and the living testimony of Your Son.
And for all returning Prodigals, I ask You to open their eyes, just as You have and continue to do my own, to see the fingerprints of glory all over their lives. Show them how You have been preparing them for the calling upon their lives. Bring childhood memories to mind that show them You knew their every weakness and planned from the outset how to use these weaknesses to glorify Yourself in and through them and to bow their knees in reverential fear of You.
Father, forgive us all for our unbelief. Open our hearts to receive Your Word afresh and to release everthing and everyone into Your hands.
Thank You for Your desire to heal and restore Your Body, to make us One in You. In Jesus’ precious Name, Amen.
24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” 26 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:24-26 ESV