Listen, my son, accept what I say,
and the years of your life will be many.
I instruct you in the way of wisdom
and lead you along straight paths.
When you walk, your steps will not be hampered;
when you run, you will not stumble.
Hold on to instruction, do not let it go;
guard it well, for it is your life.
Do not set foot on the path of the wicked
or walk in the way of evildoers.
Avoid it, do not travel on it;
turn from it and go on your way.
For they cannot rest until they do evil;
they are robbed of sleep till they make someone stumble.
They eat the bread of wickedness
and drink the wine of violence.
- Proverbs 4:10-17
“Many times I have heard parents lament, ‘What have I done wrong?’ Parents are all too willing to take the blame when their children make poor choices or get themselves into trouble. Parents want so much for their children to succeed and have pleasant, carefree lives. That is why there is special joy in seeing children succeed. Mothers and fathers can feel pride and take some credit for their children when they do well. It is an honor to the parents of children who succeed, that they have done a good job of bringing them up. When parents take interest in their children and treat them with respect and care, they are giving them as great a gift as is possible. Those children who come from these types of families are supposed to have the greatest chance of living good lives when they are grown.
“Our heavenly Father has tried to instruct us in the ways that lead to eternal life. He has allowed us to make our own choices, though, and we must take responsibility for them, bad or good. It is His greatest wish that we follow the wisdom of His will. When we do so, it is to His glory as well as ours, that we have learned well. By listening to our heavenly Father, our lives are enriched and the years of our lives will be multiplied.”
- Dan and Nancy Dick, Daily Wisdom from the Bible
When I was roughly one year old, my mother’s sister moved to Cocoa, Florida, USA. Her daughter had asthma, and the doctors suggested either Florida or Arizona. My grandparents and my parents lived in northern Mississippi and the interstate highway system had not been signed into law, much less a segment constructed. Travelling to and from Florida was much easier than Arizona. My uncle was a plumber, and my aunt was a nurse. They could get jobs anywhere, and for a while, both ended up working for NASA contractors, my aunt for most of her career.
When they moved from Tennessee to Florida, my Dad drove their household goods to Florida in the 18-wheeler semi-truck that he had bought for the turkey farm. Long before seatbelts and car seats, my parents propped me on a stack of pillows so that I could see something other than the sky through the truck’s windshield. To avoid the heat of the day and most of the traffic, my Dad drove all night long. I stayed awake all night. Each time that I would start to have my eyes flutter, we would enter the next town – no by-passes in those days either. The streetlights and neon signs would perk me up. I was attracted to the bright lights.
My parents often talked of that first trip to Florida and how my days and nights were mixed up the entire time we were there. I can remember riding in that manner, maybe with less pillows, but probably a year or two later as we often went to visit. Years later, I became the map reader, but my Dad knew the route anyway. It got to be that I could tell him what coffee shops and such would be open in the middle of the night in the next town that we would go through – again attracted to the neon signs.
The neon signs may be gone, but the world still attracts our interest with bright lights and glitter, loud noises, and vain, empty promises.
We may do a great job of pointing our children in the right direction. We may not be that good at it. But they make their own decisions. Are they attracted to the glitter and glitz of this world or do they have their feet firmly planted on a firm foundation of God’s Truth?
As parents, we can guide them, but often they do not listen. When I was little, my parents could encourage all they could, but I was not going to sleep. I might miss the next neon sign. My parents learned that I was different from my older siblings. They made a few adjustments, but mostly, I had to fit into their mold. Even then, my mistakes were my own.
Most of what my parents taught me was false information. Of course, if everyone had the same values and moral system that my parents had, it might have been mostly correct. But working harder caused me to be assigned more work while the less productive people got the promotions. They had the time to do politics. Smiling and having a positive attitude did not get me anywhere either. Community involvement, volunteering, active in a church? No help. But maybe I went to work for the wrong people.
Maybe the reason that my children rebelled is that they did not see any earthly success in me. Our younger son, after being rebellious though his middle school, high school, and college years has become a lot like me, now that he has children of his own. And accepting Jesus as his Savior makes a big difference also.
It does not help to get angry or frustrated when your children make bad decisions. It may drive them further away.
As the Scripture says, a father’s good guidance can lead you toward God, but all those glittering, glowing neon signs in the middle of the night have a certain allure. It is not that we should allow our children to make their own mistakes; it is that they will do so. To prevent them from choosing is the worst mistake. That is abuse of the highest order. But not choosing wisely, not accepting Jesus into your heart leads to destruction.
But each of us makes our own decision. Will you make the decision for Jesus, for Love, for Joy, for Hope. Or will you choose what the bright lights say that they provide, only to find no joy, false hope, or fleeting and usually false love, at least nothing that is lasting.
Jesus is the only answer that provides a lasting solution.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.