I had a customer come into work driving his daughter’s car. That isn’t an abnormal event, but what spilled out of his mouth was. It wasn’t like he was drooling or had tobacco on his lip. I’m talking about what he said. From the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks, Jesus said.
And what spilled out of this man’s mouth disgusted me:
“Don’t ever have kids. All they’ll do is complain and take your money. [Expletive] kids.”
“I don’t know why they don’t do this stuff themselves. Stupid teenagers.”
It wasn’t the first customer I’ve had say it to me and I’m sure it won’t be the last. I wish that wasn’t case but that just isn’t reality. I do remember the first time I had ever heard someone say that to me. My wife and I just moved into a new rental home and the neighbour came over to say hello. He started with small talk—who are you, what do you do for work—and then he led into a weird rant:
“You want my advice? Never have kids. Worst thing I ever did. Money sucking scavengers. That’s the only reason my kids come to see me. What a waste.”
I wasn’t prepared for that at all, and that wasn’t the end.
“Do you realize how much money you waste on kids? By the time a kid is 18, you will have wasted a quarter of a million dollars on them. A quarter of a million! On one kid. And I was stupid enough to have three.”
At the time, my wife was still early into her first trimester with our first child. I’m not sure where my neighbour got his information, but it wasn’t the information that disgusted me. It was the same thing in my neighbour that made me sick as was in that customer I had, driving his daughter’s car. Out of their mouths spilled vile hatred and gross neglect of their children. They didn’t want them to exist. They would rather not be fathers. Instead, they wished their kids dead.
I didn’t speak to my neighbour a whole lot after that conversation. My customer could see that I was repulsed by what he had said. I honestly didn’t want to hear anything else they had to say.
Hearing this kind of attitude towards children, whether they are still young or old enough to drive, it was like someone poked a lion in a cage. It stirred up something in me. Something angry, something aggressive, something that wanted very much to bite back against these men’s hatred, bitterness and regret for something that is actually a blessing.
Because I was caught off guard with my neighbour, I didn’t say anything. Because I was acting as an employee of a company, I was not able to start a discussion about religion and values, as much as I wanted to. So, I’m sharing this here. My neighbour and my customer’s opinion of children is not a godly one. It is not consistent with Scripture. What Scripture has to say about children is so far from what these two men said:
No doubt about it: children are a gift from the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a divine reward. The children born when one is young are like arrows in the hand of a warrior. The person who fills a quiver full with them is truly happy! They won’t be ashamed when arguing with their enemies in the gate. – Psalm 127.3-5 CEB
I can recall that miraculous day with such clarity. Seeing that cute little face for the first time, my heart burst into praise. “Thank God! Thank you, thank you, thank you!” I was so overwhelmed with love and gratitude that I was crying; the tears flowed. They poured out of my eyes singing my worship to God. He had blessed me with a child.
I got to hold something uniquely beautiful and lovely. I got to carry around a bundle of flesh that was touched by the Divine Hand of God. A child, a daughter.
I don’t know what has to happen for a father to forget that moment. To not be able to recall the miraculous event of their birth, or hearing them scream at the top of their lungs for the first time seems so sad. The only conclusion I can come to, the only way that a father could neglect or repress something so wonderful is this; they dwell on the negative. They insist on living in the mistakes, the bad or rough times. And in doing so, they reject the truth about their children, that they are blessings. They are divine blessings handed down to us by the Author of Life Himself. Any dwelling or mediation on this single verse should move the heart towards an overwhelming love for their children. There are more Scriptures to support overwhelming love and truth that our children are gifts from God:
For You formed my inward parts;You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them. Psalm 139.13-16 NASB
Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. James 1.17
Our children, whether they are still crawling around and filling up diapers with ungodly smells, or they are turning into mature men and women, they are still a gift. They are a good thing, a good gift that God has handed down to you. And a gift, once received, should not be despised but cherished and loved.
Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it. – Proverb 22.6
When my neighbour spoke about how his kids were just money grubbers, when my customer spoke with annoyance about his kids being lazy, I wondered how their kids got that way. What happened or didn’t happen that shaped them into the people they are today? I’m sure there are a great many things that go into shaping a human being, but this one portion of Scripture in Proverbs seemed to recognize the most important. It is up to the parents, not just the fathers, to train, to teach, to help mold a person into who they should become.
Most Christians are familiar with the verse from Proverbs, but in my experience, most people seen this as an insurmountable task. How can one possibly train a child? Have you even seen a child? They don’t sit still for 5 seconds, how would I teach them anything? And what happens, if by some miracle they can be taught or trained, they decide to walk away from that teaching? Is it my fault as the parent? Did I do a poor job of teaching and training? Or is it all the child’s fault, with their rebellious spirit and undisciplined mind?
I have no real expertise in raising children. As I am writing this, my daughter is only one year old. I cannot imagine the challenges that I have yet to face. But that doesn’t mean that they are insurmountable or that she is bound to be a rebellious child. When I read Proverbs 22.6, I do not see it as an example of “Get it right or else.” This is not a commandment or a law passed down from on high. I am not trying to minimize the authority of this Scripture, but trying to say that reading this verse in that light can add a lot of unnecessary weight and burden to any parent. What if we read it not as a command, but as a lasting reminder? What if we read Proverbs 22.6, not as the ‘do’ in a list of do’s and don’t’s, but as a divine notification?
I’m sure that most parents have moments where they have found themselves sitting at the dinner table, long after the kids have gone to sleep and pondered this question.
“What am I supposed to do with them? They are monsters. They don’t listen. They destroy everything they touch. I feel like I’m going to go crazy and pull all my hair out.” I’ve heard different parents over the years, tell their kids things like, “I’ve had it with your attitude. I’m not dealing with you anymore. I don’t know what to do with you.”
I know there will come a time when I feel the same way, or such words spill out from my lips. But in moments like these I think it is important to be reminded of what God has said, “Keep teaching them.”
“Don’t stop. Don’t give up just because it is difficult. Yes, they aren’t listening today. Yes, they aren’t doing as you have trained or taught them to. Yes, you may be at your wits end and have no clue as to what you are supposed to do with them. But here is your answer; Keep going, even if they never get it. Even if they turn and live in the complete opposite direction. You, as a parent, are called to continue teaching and training your kids as long as they are your kids. The going is getting tough, keep teaching.”
You will have to let me know, but when I think about this verse that way there is a burden lifted from my parental shoulders. What happens if my daughter turns into a little terror and won’t obey or listen to me or her mother? Keep on teaching. What happens if she grows into a woman that rejects the truth of God as we have presented it to her? Keep on teaching.
Seeing this verse takes away the pressure to perform, the pressure to get it right, right now. If allows for your child to be a free-will being, to make their own choices, but still holds you accountable as a parent. You have been blessed with a child, a gift given by the Divine Creator. You are responsible for teaching and training. Now, go.
What do we teach them and how we teach them is it’s own article. But what is important right now is that we realize the great responsibility that falls on our shoulders as parents, whether our kids listen to us or not. It is imperative that we spend time pouring into their lives, educating, teaching, training, setting the example for who they are supposed to be as they grow up.
Parents, but especially fathers, an attitude of hatred towards your children, speaking with regret and bitterness about your sons and daughters is not the actions and attitudes of godly men. Godly men do not wish death upon others, especially their offspring. Godly men do not refuse what they have been entrusted to take care of.
Instead they realize how richly blessed they have been, that they hold a divine gift in their hands. They understand the constant responsibility that lays on their shoulders, to teach and to train their kids in the way to grow and to mature.