I am an admirer of President Abraham Lincoln. I understand he, like all men, had many flaws. In spite of shortcomings, his governance helped preserve the union of our nation during the dark days of the Civil War. I appreciate the way he educated himself and how he integrated wisdom from everyday life with principled leadership. I recently read these words of wisdom from our 16th President: “There is just one way to bring up a child in the way he should go and that is to travel that way yourself.”
This quote is based on Proverbs 22:6 where the wise man admonished: “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” This verse, like all verses in the book of Proverbs, are statements of general wisdom. They were not given as statements of absolute fact with no possibility of any exceptions. However, making this explanation or providing this concession is in no way a justification for parents to shirk their responsibility in rearing children properly in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. We know from Deuteronomy 6, Ephesians 6:4, and other verses in the Bible that parents have a very important duty. How do parents fulfill the obligations Scripture places on them?
Frequent Bible reading, daily prayers offered, and regular attendance at every assembly time of the church are all items parents should incorporate into their parenting efforts. Nonetheless, the quote of Mr. Lincoln I believe contains a sobering warning. We cannot expect children to walk with the Lord if dad and mom refuse to walk with Him. The longer I live and observe the behavior of both children and parents, the more I notice how children usually turn out to be about as faithful and dedicated as their parents were while they were growing up.
Many parents, who perhaps were not faithful to the Lord in the formative years of their children’s lives, wonder why they have children who have no desire to be faithful when they grow older. Is it really a mystery? I suggest it is not difficult to understand. It may seem our children are not listening to us, but do not doubt they are watching us and will in most cases grow up to imitate us. This applies to both our attitudes and actions, for good or otherwise.
What do my children see me doing? Do they see me not just telling them what they should do in order to please the Lord but actively trying to do what I am telling them they should do? If my children never see me reading the Bible, do you think they will grow up to be Bible readers? If they never see me pray, except for a short blurb before meals, should I be surprised prayer is not an integral part of their day when they are older? If I never invite neighbors or seek to discuss spiritual matters with others, will my children have any interest in this spiritual work in adulthood?
Please understand I am not attempting to suggest I am a perfect father; I am far from it. I am well aware how challenging it is to try and balance all the demands and stresses of life, but my wife and I are trying to make an intentional effort to emphasize by both our words and actions that seeking the kingdom of God first is what we want to do and what we want our boys to do. We are doing this by trying to live lives before them each day that we will not be ashamed for them to imitate when they grow older and begin to train our grandchildren. Honest Abe was right: our children will follow our example, and we want them to follow our example as we follow the Lord!
What way will your children go when they follow the way you have went?