Discipleship: Walking the Path of Life
Educating the WholeHearted Child: Chapter 4
“The path, or way, is an analogy for life that almost any child can understand from a very early age, and one that becomes even more meaningful and internalized as they get older. The power for young children is in the concreteness of the image it evokes. They can understand in an uncomplicated way that they need to stay on the path God has provided for them in order to be safe from evil and harm…” (page 58).
I love this analogy of the path of life. It is a beautiful picture of walking in God’s ways, and it helps me see more clearly my role as a parent. “You walk with your children on the path, and they look to you to be their guide” (page 58). This is something I can do. Day by day walking in His ways, looking to Him for direction, doing our best to stay on the path.
“As Christian parents, you are the guides that God has appointed for your children. He trusts you to be able to do the job–there is no heavenly hand-wringing wondering if he has chosen the best guides for your children” (page 59). I know this, but sometimes I really need the reminder. God knows my failings. He knows my weaknesses. He knows where I am prone to stray off the path. And yet he thought Eric and I were the best guides for Ian, Elijah, Arianna, Nicholas, and any other children with whom He may bless us in the future.
This chapter impressed upon me the importance of showing sympathy to my children. As I read the Clarksons’ definition of sympathy when it comes to parenting, I realized this was exactly what I felt like I had missed as a child. “Sympathy was… the willingness to understand and validate a child’s thoughts or feelings, in order to create a channel to the inside of that child’s heart” (page 60). As soon as I became a mother, I determined that I never wanted my children to feel as alone, misunderstood, and unimportant as I had felt as a child.
Sometimes when Ian goes on and on about motorcycles or monster trucks or other things that bring him great delight I catch myself saying (or at least thinking), “I really don’t care.” But that’s not the message I want to send to him. I couldn’t care less about these boyish wonders, but I do care about Ian. If I want to reach his heart with the things that are important to me, I need to make sure I have opened that channel by listening to the things that are important to him. When it comes to encouraging him to stay on the path of life, he is much more likely to listen to me if I have made a point of being a willing listener to whatever childish fancies are floating through his mind and heart.
Each Mentoring Monday I share my reflections on what I’ve been learning from my “paper mentors.” I am currently joining in a book discussion of Educating the WholeHearted Child by Clay Clarkson (with Sally Clarkson). If you want to join in, visit our Facebook discussion group page.