“Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6
When I was a young mom I took this to mean: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and he’ll never stray from the faith.”
Oh, naïve me.
When my youngest was eighteen, he was pretty sure he had the world figured out and he resented any interference from his less intelligent parents. And, so he moved out.
The foundation we had so carefully laid around him crumbled as he sought to find his own identity. He started to become someone we hardly recognized. He hung out with a bad crowd, racked up debt, worked sporadically at entry-level jobs, moved into an apartment he couldn’t afford, kept it like a pigsty and then got evicted. It was so painful to watch him fall apart from a distance. Of course, I prayed for him and my prayers went something like this: “God, please, just please.” Because, I had no words for the huge miracle I needed.
I prayed for years for my sweet, angelic son, the one who had gone to church and Christian school and had uncountable conversations about faith in our home. He had been a strong believer, firm in his faith and not afraid to show it.
So, where was my promise? We had trained him up in the way he should go and yet he had departed from it.
After many years, when my son hit rock bottom, he asked to return home. We were all a bit wary at first. It was like having a stranger in our house. But, I continued praying the prayers that were basically moanings from the deepest part of my soul. And, little by little, I watched my son change again. Through hard work and determination he paid off all his debts, returned to school and then got a good job. He was reliable and conscientious, but I still wasn’t sure about his standing with the Lord. He seemed to be relying more on himself than God.
But, my prayers began to have form and focus. He had made so many changes that I could now pray for specifics. And, my main prayer was that he would return to the faith of his youth. And, he finally did, this time by himself, without any help from us. Because, we had already trained him up in the way he should go.
Faith is not a family legacy. Your child isn’t automatically saved just because you are. It is our job as parents to set up a foundation our kids can build on. The rest is up to them. Sometimes (as with my older two) your kids will build without faltering or wavering. But, sometimes you will have a child who walks away from the foundation you’ve so carefully created as they try to build a house on sand.
Just keep praying, Mama. If that foundation is truly set, they will return to it. I believe that is what God’s promise is all about. It may take years and maybe it won’t happen until they’re old and facing eternity. But, they will return. And, their faith will be all the stronger because they have walked through fire.
When my son moved back home, I told him gently, “You know, we weren’t trying to control your life, we were trying to save you from all this pain.”
He looked at me sadly and quietly said, “Yeah, I know that NOW.”