It has been almost 27 years, but I remember it as clearly as if it happened yesterday.
We brought our newborn son home from the hospital and I carried the car seat carrier thingy into the house and set it (with him still in it) on the kitchen counter. And then this overwhelming sense of “WHAT NOW?!?!” came over me.
We were not given any manual, any specific instructions, nor ‘checked out’ on our parenting skills at all. No, the only thing the hospital folks verified before giving us this little life-form to take care of was whether or not we had a car seat that met certain standards and was installed correctly in the car.
Sure, we were both professionals and had multiple post-graduate degrees between us. But this was a pretty complicated organism we were expected to maintain with virtually no guidance whatsoever.
What were those folks at the hospital thinking?! Did the authorities know that the hospital entrusted that brand new being to people who didn’t know what they were doing?
To drive a car, you have to be trained and pass a test. You must study, practice and show some degree of proficiency to fly a plane. Scuba diving requires certification. For crying out loud, you must have an in-home study done in order to adopt a pet from the animal shelter (a pet that would otherwise be euthanized!). But to reproduce and rear another human being – nothing!
And then for months afterward, I would go into my son’s room while he was sleeping (he was always a heavy sleeper) and pick him up. I’d sit in the rocking chair holding him and just stare into his blissful, little face. I was awestruck with how this miracle . . . was. How could something that wasn’t, now be? How did that little heart inside his chest keep beating without being wound up or hooked up to batteries or something? And how could nourishment go in one end, his body expand and grow a little, and then trash come out the other end?
Who thought all of this up?!
Years went by and that same hospital actually sent us home with yet another “open box baby” (one without instructions or a manual). The initial shock of what to do with that one was not as profound, however it had parts and wiring with which I was totally unfamiliar and those “variances” became more pronounced as time passed. Yes, it was a “she.”
So, now we had two little people living with us who were completely different from one another – besides one being a boy and one a girl — their dispositions, their gifts, their inclinations, their tastes, their abilities. Even though derived from the same gene pool and reared in the same home, they couldn’t be much more different than they are.
Since they are so very different, am I supposed to “father” them differently, too? Well, yes and no.
Proverbs 22:6 says: Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. [Note: Before getting too deep into what that means, let’s make clear that this passage is wisdom teaching. This is not a promise that if you do this, you will get that. Rather, it is an inspired word of encouragement and warning that when you do one thing, the other thing is very probably going to follow.]
So, the first part of that passage (“Train up a child in the way he should go”) can be literally translated from the Hebrew as: “Initiate a child in accordance with his way.”
“His way”? Does that mean that we are to encourage and support our child going the “way” he or she chooses or desires in everything? Of course not. That would result in children that ate candy and drank soft drinks at every meal, watched all the TV they wanted and never went to school.
On the contrary, I believe “his way” is a two-sided coin. On one side, a child is to be “trained in accordance with his way” with “his way” being “His way” — God’s way: His righteousness, for His glory, following Jesus. On the other side, “his way” is the way God designed and planned for that specific child.
In Psalm 139:13-16, we read:
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
And in Jeremiah 29:11, we see:
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
Surely our loving, gracious God has wonderful and truly good things planned for each and every child born into this world. But many, many of those wonders go unfulfilled because no one has trained, instructed or initiated that child according to his way.
Many future parents plan their “family” right down to the month they wish to start having their 2.5 children. Others strive for years to begin their parenthood journey. However, regardless of how quickly, how unexpectedly, how much effort went into it or the circumstances leading up to it — when you become a father, it is in God’s timing and according to His will.
And you become the father of the specific child God intended for you to “train up in the way he should go.”
It would be great if we were given detailed instructions on how to work that out. It would be great if God let us in on the plans He has for our children.
Despite the lack of an instruction book pertaining to each child, God has given us His Word, chock-full of how to be a godly father and how to instill the fear and love of God in our children. And He has given us the indescribable privilege of being the hands He uses to mold our children into what He has envisioned.
And when we participate with God in bringing into fruition what He designed into our children, “even when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Why will he not depart from it? Is it because he has been “conditioned” to act a certain way? No. He will not depart from it because he has become what God designed him to become.
And fatherhood — the immense privilege and enormous obligation to mold your children in accordance with God’s plan — doesn’t end when you get past the terrible twos, or when they walk across the stage with a diploma, or when they move out, or when they have their own children, or when they become stronger than you. God is not finished with them and He isn’t finished using you to help shape them.
Join us this Sunday for Father’s Day!
It’s going to be a no-frills Father’s Day — just lots of food and family. Come gather with us for community, worship and truth for your everyday life.
Fort Worth Campus: 9:15 a.m.11 a.m., 5 p.m.
West Campus: 9:30 and 11 a.m.
South Campus: 11 a.m.