By Donna Van Cleve
Train up a child in the way he should go…
A friend once told me he was going to let his children choose what to believe about God when they got older. I wonder if he applied that same philosophy to other important areas of his children’s lives. Did he leave it up to his children to discover proper nutrition through the years, assuming they would eventually learn to make the right choices in eating balanced meals? Did he let his children choose their own bedtimes? Did he allow his children to decide whether they wanted an education or not? And they chose not, did he allow them to stay home?
|Donna Van Cleve|
Did he sit back and say absolutely nothing about his children playing Little League baseball and later, sports in school? Did he never take them to games or watch sports on television with his children or pitch the ball with them out in the yard to influence them in any way about their choosing to participate in sports? Or did he insist they participate because he knew they would learn lessons they’d never learn in the classroom? Or did he insist they play so it would give him the opportunity to relive his glory days through them? Or on the other hand, would his expectations of his child’s athletic capabilities unrealistically exceed his own memories and experiences?
If sports were a religion, and our arenas, stadiums and golf courses were churches, our society would have the most active, most dedicated, most faithfully attended churches in the world. The Golden Rule would state, Do unto the other team before they do unto you, and glory and honor would come only from winning at any cost. We’ve taught our children well about the importance of sports in our lives, even now scheduling local sports events on Sundays. Our silence and lack of resistance to this speaks volumes to our children about which is more important to us.
People are more than physical and intellectual beings. We each have a spiritual facet as well, but unfortunately that is the most neglected part of us. For the first twenty years of our children’s lives, we make every effort for them to develop their minds by sending them to school and encouraging their learning at every opportunity. At earlier and earlier ages we’re training our children physically and having them compete individually or on teams. From every source imaginable, pictures of finely toned bodies of physical perfection are exposed to our children, who often times assume that unrealistic image is expected of them as well.
If a parent left all the decisions about nutrition and education up to a child, most of us would think the parent was neglecting and abusing that child. But we don’t give spiritual neglect a second thought, even though the lack of character and honor among people today is screaming the result of our society’s neglect in developing our spiritual natures.
God created a spiritual need in all of us that He intended for us to fill with a relationship with himself through Christ. And if people do not know God, they will spend a lifetime searching to fill that void by whatever means possible: material possessions, addictions, obsessions, self-honor and praise, cults, fame, and so on.
Our children know what’s important to us by watching our actions. My friend didn’t realize it, but in choosing to let his own children make up their minds about God later on, he had already taught his children a monumental lesson about his own lack of faith and commitment to God.
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…and when he is old, he will not depart from it.