“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” ~ Proverbs 22:6
I think something may be getting lost in the translation, here. Everywhere I look, I see parents starting their children off, holding their hand, walking with them, lugging their backpacks, bringing them water…harmless things. Helpful things.
That somehow turn into… must practice, must be at every game, must train, must compete, must enter tournaments, must “be seen by college coaches,”… There’s a dedication and discipline parents want to inspire. They dearly want to start them off on the right way.
But we’re reluctant to let go so they can find it. We get so caught up in the “way they should go” that they turn from it, just to spite us. It’s ‘our should’ not theirs and they say so.
Or they don’t. And maybe that’s worse. When they feel the weight of unspoken expectation invested in them and try to live up to it. Knowing, full well, they don’t have it in them. But seeking to please. Clamoring for praise. Daring not disappoint.
This way becomes covered in brambles. The ascent becomes steep. Footing precarious. Gravel gives way and they fall. Tumbling down. The higher they’ve climbed and the more mountainous the region, the more they are scraped and bruised and broken on the way down.
“Be pleasing! seek praise! don’t disappoint!” echoes. They scramble to their feet, desperately searching for the trail head. Where is the path? Quickly, I must find it. I am falling behind, others are moving ahead! Must find the way I should go. Mom and Dad told me. Others encouraged me. Can’t let them down.
How many of our children are trapped in this place?
I expect the only safe excursion for parent and child is along the flat. Weaving in and out, following the paved way, learning where the edge is and which direction is forward. The pace? As long as it takes for small feet and little legs or great big sneakers and long limbs to make it their own. Their own pace. Their own swing. Their own shot. Their own path.
We, need only shout encouragement when they choose well. “That’s the way!” And to re-direct when they choose poorly.
The way up the mountain of God is narrow, the ledges best navigated single file. But at each turn there is a broad place, where God says, “Rest here a while. Eat if you’re hungry. Drink if you’re thirsty. Prepare for what’s ahead.” He knows it already. Walked the path. Chose it for us.
When we see it we know it is ours. Meant especially for us. Not simple to climb, but easy to choose. And climb we do, putting one foot in front of the other. Same step, different terrain.
No wonder we celebrate when baby takes his first step.