I am heading back into my classroom today to start the new school year and my time with the LORD this morning was a perfect way to begin! I listened to another sermon by Chuck Swindoll from Ephesians 6:1-4, and Proverbs 22:6.
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. "Honor your father and mother" (this is the first commandment with a promise), "that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land."Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:1-4)
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)
I’m not a momma yet (LORD willing someday), but I do adopt these 20 or so students into my heart during the school year. I love them, pray for them, cry for them, give to them, guide them, teach them, shepherd them, counsel them, and discipline them. I remember reading during my first year of teaching that discipline means to “teach and train”, and I thought “great, I can do that”!
A couple of years ago I had a VERY difficult and challenging student. He was exposed to drugs in the womb, watched his father violently attack his mother when he was little, had night terrors, fits of rage, talked to himself, was diagnosed with depression . . . and more. Needless to say, every minute of the day was a challenge, not knowing which side of him I would see.
I soon realized that being “firm” with him just wasn’t going to cut it. I thought, well this guy has just never been “disciplined” before, so I’ll break him in, and it will be tough at first, but he’ll learn to “obey”. Little did I know that this type of an approach, with a child like this, was a recipe for disaster. I soon realized that my “firm hand of discipline” exasperated him.
I remember reading in Ephesians 6:4 one day “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” I realized what I had been doing. I wasn’t “bringing him up” I was "jerking him up", expecting him to “obey” me, and he looked to it as a fight! I was provoking him to fight with me, rather than nurturing him and pointing him in the right direction.
Listening to this sermon reminded me of my role as a shepherd for these children. A shepherd nurtures, guides, and protects. A shepherd doesn’t just stand over there sheep and whack them with the rod when they’re off the path! There is more to it than that. Chuck Swindoll reminded me that “training a child up” does not mean taking them to Sunday school, getting them around the right people, forcing them to memorize scripture, etc. It’s not about getting them to bend to your rules or forcing them to act a certain way. It is about creating and cultivating a thirst to obey God.
Bringing them up means nurturing them to be the people God intended them to be, and remembering as we do that, to point them in the proper direction (by teaching, training, and disciplining).
And while sometimes a shepherd does have to break a sheep’s leg to keep him from running off now and then, it is not without proper instruction of why he did it and pointing out the correct way so he doesn’t have to do it again. So as I prepare for my new school year, I meditate on this concept of shepherding, on training up a child, and on what it means to nurture, love, instruct, guide, and train.