Planting • Train Up a Child
Sierra Combs | Women’s Ministry Director
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6
If you are a Bible reading person who has ever raised a child, I can almost guarantee that you have heard this verse. Perhaps you have it memorized or painted on signs in your home. Some of you might quote it daily or if you are extreme maybe even have it tattooed on your arm so that you can be reminded of it at all times. Why? Because raising children is hard work. It is gut wrenchingly hard work. Sure, kids are amazing. The joys and rewards of raising them are pretty unbeatable. But it is hard! While being a parent is one of the greatest blessings God has given us, it is also one of our greatest responsibilities.
“Train up a child in the way he should go.” What does this mean? According to the dictionary, to train means “to develop or form the habits, thoughts, or behavior by discipline and instruction.” I think of Olympic level athletes and how they got to their level of success. They were not just born superstars, they had to go through years and even decades of hard work and training to reach their goals. Training is an important and necessary part of life, and it is more than just teaching. When we train our kids, we are molding and shaping their hearts into who we intend them to be, and we are called to start doing that from the very beginning. So how can and how should we train our children? I first should note that even when we are not intentionally training our children, they are still being trained. For example, by failing to discipline them, we teach them that they can get away with doing whatever they want. By failing to teach them God’s Word, they learn that what God says is not that important. That is not good training!
We need to actively and intentionally dedicate the time and care into training up our children in the “way” they should go. What is the way? Better yet, Who is the way? In John 14:6 Jesus tells us that He is “the way, and the truth, and the life.” Teaching our children about Jesus and showing them how to live godly lives is the best kind of training we can give our kids. Even Moses stressed the importance of teaching God’s commandments when he told the Israelites to “repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:7-9 NLT). If we want our children to follow God, we must live our lives with Him at the very center and as the focus. I encourage you to be in the Word with your children. Pray with them, talk about what God wants to do in their lives. God has given you an extremely important role and responsibility! Do not waste it!
The second half of the verse is probably the part that people want to cling to the most. “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” The second half of this verse is the part that makes a lot of people feel good and safe. But as much as I wish this were an absolute promise and perfect formula given by God, it is not a foolproof plan. Like the rest of the Proverbs, this is just another general truth written by a wise man. The fact is that while we will be held accountable to God for what we do or do not do in the early years of our children’s lives, eventually that responsibility shifts over to them. As a mom, I want nothing more than to see my kids become godly individuals who make great choices and do incredible things for God. We can train them, teach them, pray for them, and hope beyond hopes that they become these people, but we cannot make that happen. That is up to them. In the meantime, let us continue to be heart shapers, teaching and training our children in the way of the Lord and giving thanks to the Father for passionately pursuing them every single day.