"Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it."
Proverbs 22:6 (NLT)
At our Christmas gathering this year, we highlighted the 12th birthdays of our two oldest grandchildren. In the Jewish faith that is a major milestone, the age at which a child can be initiated into the community of adult believers.
As a sign of her growing maturity we gave our Madelyne a plaque with a prayer and a picture of St. Madeleine, a beloved 19th century founder of schools for girls around the world, along with a book about Mother Teresa. Our John Mark was given a plaque of the well known prayer of St. Francis ("Lord, Make me an instrument of your peace..."), and a book about this beloved imitator of Christ from Assisi.
Someone has said that what the oft-quoted "train up a child" text might really mean is that whatever good instruction we give our children will never leave them. At any rate, most of us parents have one wish above all others, that we successfully pass on a strong faith and a good set of values to our children and grandchildren.
But none of us is perfect, and even if we were, it would not guarantee that our children would be. Every human being has the right, indeed the God-given responsibility, to make personal choices. And even God's very first children didn't make all wise ones.
I once heard someone say that our real success as parents has less to do with what kind of children we raise as it does with what kind of grandchildren we produce. At any rate, Alma Jean and I thank God every day for being blessed with three children and six grandchildren who are far, far better than we deserve. But we know they all face challenges and temptations greater than any of ours in previous generations.
For example, will our offsprings' constant access to screen-based entertainment rob them of good connections with the real world of nature and of other people? Will increased wealth and an ever easier and comfortable life detract from their willingness to work and serve in self-giving ways? Will they form strong bonds with supportive communities of faith in which they will be able, if so led, to grow strong families of their own? And will they be able to live by the above six "family rules" in all their relationships?
Pray with me, on this sixth day of Christmas, that our future generations of grandmen and women will do far better than we in making this a truly God-blessed world.