"The Sign"

My father in-law is one great guy. He’s not one to carry on an extended conversation, but he is one who exemplifies the word “wisdom.”

As he was fathering nine children, he got in the habit of putting a sign in the backyard with quips and quotes that might find their way into the minds and hearts of his kids. The sign was directly visible from the dining room window and the window above the kitchen sink. So, during every meal and after every meal as they were cleaning up, the kids could see that sign.

Of course, most of the kids thought the sayings like, “I Shoulda, why didn’t ya!” or “There’s no ‘I’ in team”, corny and a bit off the wall. Nevertheless, they indulged their father’s quirky habit.

Now, as his children are grown with children of their own, I can’t begin to count the number of times I have heard one of the kids make reference to that sign on the hill. They would quote one of the sayings that stuck in their mind and how it had provided guidance in their life.

To me that whole process is a fleshing out of Proverbs 22:6,

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

I suspect this verse in Proverbs has caused many sleepless nights for parents. Those parents who felt like they had done most of the right things in raising their children only to find them seriously off “the way” and in a life or lifestyle dramatically different than what they had been taught.

Psychologist, counselors, and pastors have gone to great lengths to justify why this waywardness exists, but there is often little comfort to the parents involved. After all, it is what it is.

There is no real suave for the anguishing wounds that come from a wayward child. Even two children raised in the same home with the same “guidance” may choose two different paths, much to the dismay of the parents as they observe the visible fruit of their labors.

Perhaps the key to the wisdom of Proverbs 22:6 is not the first part of the verse which emphasizes the training, but the last part of the verse – “even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

The older I get the smarter my parents become. That does not mean they were ignorant in the beginning, it simply means I was not inclined toward their instruction. Now, as I age in my own understanding of life, I realize that perhaps they did know what they were talking about in many instances.

If one magnifies that and puts a child in the environment of a Christian home, there may indeed be great hope and consolation in this verse. As I observe many times in my wife’s family when the sign on the hill bears it’s own kind of fruit in it’s own season.

The seeds planted, the example provided, the encouragement given by God-fearing and God-loving parents, may indeed bear fruit as the children mature and realize the value of the instruction they received in “the way”.  That is the hope.

I was not exposed to all the messages on the sign. But I am often exposed to the fruit of those messages and the godly influence of a dad who wrote them. I get the privilege to see and learn how godly parents influence the lives of their children. It’s not just the sign, it is the life lived inside the home that has the message of the way.

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