“Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.” Proverbs 22:6
When my husband and I are on a hiking vacation, in the morning we will assess our hike for the day. As we look at the map, we will determine if the trail is an in and out trail or a trail that loops back to the point of entry.
On the days we choose an in and out trail, we find the point of entry, throw on our backpacks filled with the needs for the day and begin hiking. As we begin the hike, we know with each step we are deeper into the trail. One year in Washington State, we hiked Olympic National Forest. As we began our hike, it did not take long before we realized we were engulfed in the beautiful forest. The deeper in we went, the more committed we were to the hike. Once we were deep in the forest, if we had forgotten something, we knew we would have to do without because the hike back to the car was too far.
The further in, the further the commitment.
This scripture in Proverbs describes a similar hike we have with our children.
As we take the hand of our children, we stand at the entry point of the path of life. They are young and moldable. They honestly have no choice as to what path we as parents put them on. They innocently grab our hand with blind trust to the path they are placed.
As we begin to walk with them, we start teaching them the truth that anchors our own lives. We give them morals and beliefs that we believe in for ourselves. As the moments of their lives tick by, we find ourselves deeper into the trail. The leaves and branches of the forest begin to engulf our journey. As we continue to step down the path, the entry point fades more and more into the distance. When we turn to look behind us, we can no longer see where we began the journey. But that is of no concern for us because we are enjoying the hike with our children. As we walk along the path, we see other trails connecting to our chosen path. It is often tempting to venture another path because those trails look attractive, but we realize the main trail is the only one that will help us reach our destination.
The further into the forest we travel with our children, the more committed to the trail we become. And the more committed we become, the more we expose our children to that commitment.
As our children grow older, we are deeper into this journey with them. At some point, our children may desire to go back to the point of entry because they begin to question if they want to be on this particular trail. But because it is an in and out trail, there is only one way out. As they let go of our hand, they begin to travel towards the entry point. Because we have stayed the course, we are deep into the forest therefore causing their journey back to be a long one. As they let go of our hand and begin their way back, the forest trees begin to engulf them. It is quite intriguing for a bit, but this time they are all alone on their journey. Because they departed from us in such a hurry, they forgot to grab the needed nourishment for the journey. They have no backpack; no water; no food.
Overtime as they travel this course alone, they realize the journey back to the point of entry is much further than the journey back to hope and safety. As they are stuck in the middle of the path, alone; tired and worn, they eventually turn back facing forward on the path and begin their journey back to hope…their journey back home.
In the meantime, you have paused on the path praying you will hear the faint sounds of their footsteps. After waiting for what seems an eternity, you finally hear the cracking of the leaves as their feet move along the path towards truth. Reaching out your hand to grasp theirs once again, you continue on your way.
Because you took them so deep into the forest of faith, their journey back to truth is shorter than their journey to a new path.
How far we take our children into the path of truth in Jesus rests solely on us as parents. We cannot control the outcome, but we can control our contribution. If our journey is shallow, theirs will also be shallow allowing them a very short path back. But if our journey is deep showing them faith and hope in Jesus, then their walk back to change their path will be painstakingly long causing them to quit along the way and return to the truth of Jesus.
Truth in Jesus doesn’t come solely from church. It must be deep within you as a parent. As our hearts are drawn to Jesus through trials and heartache, our children will see that faith. Don’t pray locked inside your closet, pray openly with your children. Don’t read God’s word hidden from their eyes, let them see you reading with bible open speaking God’s story to them. When they face tribulation in their own world, teach them to kneel in prayer beside their beds. Talk of God’s truth along the way, in your car, at the ballpark, as they step into the doors of the school. But remember, you can only expose them to as much Jesus as you have in yourself. It all begins with you!
The further in; the further the commitment.
Written by Melody Westbrook. Melody Westbrook is the founder of The Walk Ministries, a ministry designed to bring women together through God’s story. She was a pastor’s wife for 35 years and has authored the book The Walk Back to Eden (still waiting publication). She is a communicator who loves to tell God’s story written within each of us while using her personal experience of a broken marriage and childhood survivor of abuse to communicate God’s redemption story. She loves teaching real women real stories of real life from God’s word. You can find her at http://facebook.com/thewalk.edw/.