Read the entire chapter, this devotion focuses on Proverbs 22:6.
I went to a number of youth camps and retreats, and heard a lot of sermons. A few still stick out in mind. But of all the messages I heard, I only remember one where the preacher preached on a comma. Yep, you heard me right, the message that night of youth camp was on a comma, specifically the comma in this verse.
Train up a child in the way he should go(,) and when he is old he will not depart from it. The preacher told us that many of us were in the “comma” stage. Your parents responsibility, he said, was to point you in the right direction. They were to train you and discipline you to go in the right direction. They should have taught you principles from God’s Word, and brought you to church where you could learn. When you made mistakes, they were to correct you and help you learn the right way. For the first twelve to fifteen years of your life, you were in the “Train up a child” stage. Eventually, the preacher told us, you will be out on your own, with a family of your own. For most people, if their parents train them correctly, they will live their lives loving God and serving Him. When they are old, they will not depart from the ways their parents directed them. And they will teach their children in the same ways their parents taught them.
But for many, the teen and young adult years can be the comma, the stage between being trained by parents, and living out God’s plan as an adult. The comma stage is a period of time when young people try to figure things out on their own, and wrestle with the beliefs their parents have passed down. During this time, people can strive for independence and will gradually break the cords of care given by their parents. The comma stage can be difficult as young people and parents often don’t see eye to eye.
The comma stage is part of growing up. It’s important for young adults to develop a faith that they own, and have experience for themselves. It is important for young adults to learn how to make right choices on their own, not fearing parental discipline as the primary consequence. Teenagers must come to a point where they transition from parental control to self control.
But the comma stage is also full of dangers. If you are a young person, realize that attempting to pull away parents can lead to situations where you have the potential to make terrible choices that will have life-long consequences. In an attempt to find out on their own, young people can get addicted to drugs, get involved with a bad group of friends, or fail morally. They can also reject the faith of their parents, and serve other gods. Some people never leave the comma stage, they never come to the point where they serve God on their own, and live a self-controlled life. If this is your stage of life, you do need to forge through these years moving toward adulthood by making your own decisions and making sure you own your own faith. Be careful, though, that you don’t make some horrible decisions that leave life-long scars in an attempt to pull away from mom and dad.
Are you in the comma stage? Do a couple of things. First, be thankful for your parents, especially if they have trained you in the way you should go. Second, if you have been struggling with your parents, examine your life and determine if you are working so hard to break the cords of parental control that you are disobeying God in the process.
If you are a parent, the principle of the verse rings true. Train your kids in the way they should go, and generally they will live their adult lives with the faith that was passed on to them. This is why discipline matters, and family devotions are so important. Proverbs are principles, not promises. Great parents can have kids who struggle with faith and in making decisions. If this is your story, hang in there and keep praying for your kids. It may be that they are living the comma right now, and one day they will come back to the second half of this verse, “when they are old…”