What Does It Mean to Depart?

  Proverbs 22:6 says, "Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it."  There seem to be two camps concerning this verse.  Those who have been successful in bringing up children who have remained in the church see this as a promise.  Those who have been unsuccessful say that everyone has a free will and all we can do as parents is hope for the best.  If we have done our job, the responsibility lies in our childrens' laps.
  First, I think there is a lot of confusion concerning the word train.  People immediately seem to insert the idea of teaching rather than training.  We have a dog, Hunter.  He is a great dog, a yellow lab.  From the time he was little, he was taught not to jump up on us.  He never does, except when my adult son Ben comes to visit and encourages him to do so.  (Don't ask me why he does this.)  On those occassions he will jump up, but it takes quite a bit of encouragement to do so.  He has been trained not to jump up.
  My daughter, Becky, has trained him to do some other things.  I have never seen her get out the Bible and read to him in order to do this.  I have never seen her sit down with him and explain to him that good dogs listen to their masters, and beg him for his cooperation. I have seen her praise him, reward him, and sternly command him.
   Unfortunately, many parents don't understand the concept of training.  The Hebrew translation of this word suggests the idea as meaning, "to throttle".  I don't know much about throttles, but apparently they control or restrict the flow of gasoline.  Likewise, we need to throttle many of our children's impulses until they are able to do it themselves.   Teaching is certainly important, but without training, it falls far short of the mark. 
  Having made a distinction between training and teaching, I want to return to the idea of what Proverbs means when it says our children will not depart from their training.  Growing up, I was trained to tithe on my income.  I remember a time when I didn't go to church, never uttered a prayer, or cracked my Bible, and still "tithed".  Actually, it was alms, but I didn't know the difference.  I heard one teacher say that tithing is living under the law.  He said, "If you don't believe that, try not tithing and see the fear it produces."  I can relate to what he's saying, but the practice is too ingrained in me at this point to do anything else.
   Being properly trained has merit in many regards.  I see people in our church who were probably never properly trained.  Why do I say that?  They show up at church when it is convenient to do so and they can't be trusted to follow through when they volunteer to do something. 
  Finally, I want to address the literal meaning of the word depart - to turn off.  There's a country song that talks about a guy hearing voices all the time.  They are the voices of relatives saying things like,"work that job".  What is he talking about?  He is talking about the things he has been taught growing up.  He is an adult, but he is still guided by these voices.  He may try to silence the voices at times, but they will never depart from him.  He can't turn them off!
   Teaching and training.  For good or for bad, our children will never escape.


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