Every Thursday night is date night. For this reason, I really look forward to Thursday—it is a highlight in my week. I love date night, because I am in love with my bride, and, I really like her too.
Often, we spend our date nights with another couple with whom we are very close. Last night found us all together again, gathered around a table in a local restaurant, enjoying great food, good drink, and warm conversation. It was punctuated with a great deal of laughter, swirling in particular around shared stories of our children.
As I ponder our conversation this morning, I find it remarkable how each of our children — twelve of them between the two couples—have such unique and different qualities. So often, that makes the discipling of our progeny such a joy, with each soul showing us one aspect of God’s creativity, while actually bringing out something in us as parents we wouldn’t have discovered otherwise. And at other times, that uniqueness makes their discipling a challenge, for what works with one, does not work with another.
And that’s part of why parents go on dates and talk with others, isn’t it? To share the stories, and to share the strategies. “How did you handle when they did this?” “What did you say when they did that?” “You won’t believe what he said yesterday…” “I’m just not sure what to do here…” “Here’s how I handled it….”
It’s a good thing to share wisdom with one another. It’s an even better thing to share the wisdom of the One who made those little rascals, uh, I mean, darlings, in the first place.
A youngster’s heart is filled with foolishness,
but physical discipline will drive it far away.
(Proverbs 22:15, New Living Translation)
Hey, we love our children. But we can all say a hearty amen to that first line. Boy, howdy. And the wonder of this passage is the beautiful calling that God has given to every mom and every father. You are a shaper of the heart of your child. He has placed them in your hands, in the same way a potter is handed a lump of clay. And you take the spinning wheel of time, and the tough hand of discipline, and you are given the work of molding and forming them into wise adults that are then able to go and live a good life, one day, on their own.
And what God points out is that, as lovable as they most often are, the opposite of wisdom is bound up in those precious little hearts. The ESV renders this verse, “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child,” the CSB, “Foolishness is bound to the heart of a child,” the Message, “Young people are prone to foolishness and fads…”
Parents through the ages have often joked of their children, “I sure wish these things came with an instruction manual!” Proverbs steps in, as we have been learning, and says, “Here I am.” This is one place we may find guidance, skills we can apply to living, windows into the inner logic of how everything, including our children, works. The One who actually made your child should be trusted to tell you a thing or two on how to care for him or her.
And here God states a counter-cultural dictum—the rod of discipline will separate that foolishness from your young child. Physical discipline. And for those hesitating for a moment, note that the Creator of your child says elsewhere,
Those who spare the rod of discipline hate their children.
Those who love their children care enough to discipline them.
(Proverbs 13:24, New Living Translation)
A refusal to correct is a refusal to love;
love your children by disciplining them.
(Proverbs 13:24, The Message)
“A refusal to love”? “Hate”?
Isn’t that a little strong?
No, it’s not.
For what God is telling us is that early discipleship of our children is critical for how they will turn out as they grow and get older. If you don’t drive that folly, bound to their heart, out early, it will stay with them. And the folly of a two-year old is far less dangerous and damaging then the folly of an eighteen-year old. The Creator of our children says, “Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it (Proverbs 22:6).” I think the converse is probably true, if you leave them on the wrong path of folly, they will likely not leave that either.
My fellow parent, discipleship isn’t always easy. As a dad, I get that. Believe me, I do. But parental discipleship is one of the greatest callings in the world. As a friend of mine says, it is “changing the world one child at a time.” So let’s do this. Let’s love our children really well, by disciplining them so that they head out into that big, wide, dangerous, beautiful world prepared to live a wise life, a good life, in the Jesus way.
Thank you for the weighty and wondrous, the difficult and delightful, calling of discipling our children. Just like in every other area of our lives, you do not command what you do not promise. You have instructed us to raise up our children in discipline and instruction, and you tell us that those things will come from you (Ephesians 6:4). So help us today, Father, we pray. Help us love our children through discipline—loving, thoughtful, intentional, upbuilding, restorative, healing, maturing discipline. Fill us with your guiding and controlling Spirit, so we do this in his power, and not under the influence of our sinful flesh.
Yes, and very amen, in Jesus’ name.
Pursuing the wise and good life with you,
P.S. If you’d like to study some of the wisdom literature further, I highly recommend the Wisdom Series from The Bible Project, and their resources on the book of Proverbs.
Proverbs Thirty-One Day Reading Plan
August 14: Proverbs ch. 1
Aug. 15: ch. 2
Aug. 16: ch. 3
Aug. 17: ch. 4
Aug. 18: ch. 5
Aug. 19: Grace Day
Aug. 20: ch. 6
Aug. 21: ch. 7
Aug. 22: ch. 8
Aug. 23: ch. 9
Aug. 24: ch. 10
Aug. 25: ch. 11
Aug. 26: Grace Day
Aug. 27: ch. 12
Aug. 28: ch. 13
Aug. 29: ch. 14
Aug. 30: ch. 15
Aug. 31: ch. 16
Sept. 1: ch. 17
Sept. 2: Grace Day
Sept. 3: ch. 18
Sept. 4: ch. 19
Sept. 5: ch. 20
Sept. 6: ch. 21
Sept. 7: ch. 22
Sept. 8: ch. 23
Sept. 9: Grace Day
Sept. 10: ch. 24
Sept. 11: ch. 25
Sept. 12: ch. 26
Sept. 13: ch. 27
Sept. 14: ch. 28
Sept. 15: ch. 29
Sept. 16: Grace Day
Sept. 17: ch. 30
Sept. 18: ch. 31
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