Train Up a Child

One of my favorite memory verses comes from the Book of Proverbs: “Train up a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Seems simple enough to raise your children to love the Lord, right? Well, how do you do it?  Taking them to church every Sunday when they’re little? Making them go when they’re teens? Shaking your finger at them because they’re not going when they’re in their 20s?

It’s not easy — even when you’re setting a good example by going to church on Sunday, cleaning the church on Monday, doing the books on Tuesday, going to choir rehearsal on Wednesday, going to bible study on Thursday, and taking a Bingo break on Friday.  You can’t miss Bingo. Then on Saturday you do all those things around the house that got neglected during the week, and you start cooking your Sunday dinner because you’re planning to rest on the Sabbath. God did it, so I better do it too.

What you have shown your children through this example is that loving the Lord is exhausting. That may not have been your intention, but that’s the message you’re sending without realizing it.

“I’ve been working for Jesus a long time, and I’m not tired yet.” ~Mississippi Mass Choir

At least that was my experience growing up. I watched my family and church family work hard to build their church. Sundays were very long days. Somehow, it seemed like the only day of the week that lasted longer than 24 hours. Though I wasn’t the one working for Jesus, I was exhausted just by watching all of them. That, in part, caused me to convert from one religion to another when I was 17. That was my first adult decision, and at the time, I think it was a good one. I joined the United States Air Force shortly thereafter, and my name, social security number, and my religion were stamped on my dog tags.

I didn’t realize that religion was so important to folks back then. After one full week of running, jumping, drilling, shining, and nearly passing out from the Texas heat, I looked forward to Sunday morning and the opportunity to get some of that old time religion.  Even those who claimed to be Atheists were attending a service of some kind. During those first few weeks of basic training, they beat us down before they started to build us back up. I found it was necessary for all of us to put some salve on our scrapes and talk to Jesus about healing our homesickness and anything else that ailed us.

I admit that I knew very little about the Lord back then. I went to church, paid my tithes, and served here and there, but I didn’t have much of a relationship with him at 17. That came with time, love, loss, adversity, and triumph.  If I could have a conversation with my 17 year old self, I’d say quite a few things to set her straight and to encourage her at the same time.

You’re not as smart as you think you are. Your mother is much smarter.  Learn to listen more than you talk. You’ll have some tough days ahead, Michelle. Get to know the source of your help. You’re going to need him early in the morning, late at night, and every waking moment in between. Some of your lowest days are coming, and just when you think you can’t take much more, God will rescue you and prove to you that he has heard your silent cries, that he has felt your pain, that he is ready to heal your broken heart, but you’ll still have a mighty cross to bear. Don’t worry about the cross. Yes, it is heavy, but God will use you to help others. He will surround you with good people and command his angels to guard you in all your ways. All you have to do is listen and obey. Listen and obey. No buts, Michelle Leigh. Get rid of all the distractions in your life, and keep your mind stayed on Jesus. Repeat after me. All I need is you. Again! This time open your mouth. All I need is you. Louder, Michelle! All I need is you.

We need to show our teens that it’s cool to love the Lord. If your church leaders haven’t implemented a strategy for engaging the young people in the congregation, you will lose them. No worries though. Many will explore other options just like I did and eventually end up on the right path. It might not be the path you intended them to take, but they’ll find their way. Remember who goes before them.

NOTE – All this week I will highlight a different contemporary Christian artist, and I invite you to do the same in the comments. Lecrae is a talented rapper and Dove Award winner. Your teens and older kids will be able to relate to him. Take care, and God bless.

Part II – What’s Better Than a Hallelujah?

23 thoughts on “Train Up a Child

  1. This is interesting because I am wrestling with this right now. After my family moved across the country and away from our old church, neither of my kids wants to go to church anymore. They are 12 and 16 and they are quite busy with school and trying to make new friends. They also want to sleep on Sunday mornings, and they need time to sleep.

    Our old church was a big part of my social life, and they may indeed have experienced going to church as being exhausting, or at least more life-consuming than they wanted it to be for themselves. I am taking the tack right now of letting it be and hoping they find their own path as they get older. I also changed religions from what I was raised with. I was in my late 20’s when I became a Unitarian-Universalist.

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  2. Funny.. I was at prayer tonight,and someone prayed this verse for our kids.. tears streamed down my face as they prayed… now your words tonight were just what I needed. Thanks!!

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  3. […] Another reason that some who were not in my inner circle didn’t know about my walk with the Lord is because I didn’t want to offend anyone by talking about the goodness of God. As you can tell, I no longer have that problem. I don’t want to preach, but I aspire to inspire and to encourage others. My life hasn’t been easy –a product of generational poverty and battling a chronic illness all my life has made for some powerful testimonies. There have been days when I couldn’t find the words to pray to God, but I now know that the holy spirit interceded for me. I remember waking up to excruciating pain in my abdomen while lying in my bunk in basic training one morning, and begging God to take that pain away before reveille. The pain subsided enough to do what I needed to do, but it was still there as a reminder — a reminder of my cross. […]

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  4. Wow Michelle! I may need to write a letter to my 17 year old self too. Indeed, the best thing we could do to show that loving Jesus is the best thing is not by rituals and the doing of church but displaying our relationship with Him in how we live and love others. Awesome post!

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  5. Bam! Your post reminds me when my eldest son was nineteen, and we were planning his wedding. At one point he asked me, “Mom, isn’t the Christian life supposed to be joyful?” Most often when I’m feeling stressed and anxious I remember that moment. Great story, excellent post, Michelle.

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  6. I do like your approach, Michelle and the song is great! We all had our rebellion periods, but that helped us find the way. What”s more important are the basis our beliefs are built on, because that is where we are going to go back in the end.

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  7. I love it! Your middle name is Leigh? So beautiful! You are so on point in your writing today. Much like he Pharisees, it is so easy to get caught up in religion and rituals, yet have no experience with the Spirit!

    Today’s teens need experiences…quick, fast, and in a hurry! We must make a conscientious effort to show them who God is.

    Thanks for sharing!

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  8. Greetings from one Veteran to another! I’m a U.S. Army Veteran, Nov. 1977 to Nov. 1981! Wow!! I have to admit that I’m not much of a church goer. I believe in Jesus, read the Bible and pray. I do attend on Palm and Easter Sunday. I used to attend church on a more regular basis but when my Aunt Helen died in 2010 I realized I was just attending church to please other people and not getting too much out of it. Also I disagree with the church’s stand on Women’s Rights and Gay Rights. In 2012 God Blessed me with a Japanese friend who introduced me to Shinnyo-en Buddhism. It was like finding a Gold mine. From studying these teachings I find Buddha and Jesus in agreement on many points plus I’ve been accepted by the Sangha (congregation). Because my job is extremely stressful I need those Buddhist meditations. Living in New York and having friends and co-workers of all faiths the light has come on for me that there is One God and many Pathways. My Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist co-workers and buddies are just as close to God if not closer than most Christians. Anyway thanks for your post. Very Enlightening!

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    1. Go Army! Many of my family members have proudly served our country in the Army. Thanks for your service, my friend. I agree that there are many pathways to God. I mentioned religion in that post, but I don’t ascribe to any particular religion. I love the Lord…period. In my opinion, we place too much emphasis on organized religion and not enough on our Creator. As long as you’re continually seeking a relationship with our Creator, you’re on the right track (in my humble opinion).

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  9. I’ve been pondering this a lot lately. Training is an active thing. We must lead by example, but we must also actively teach, discipline, re-teach and reinforce. It’s our job to “train ourselves out of the job.”

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