The Way That You Should Go

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Orange Path

Orange Path – Leonid Afremov

We spent some time with good friends last night and, as often happens when parents of young children gather, our conversation turned to the topic of our kids. We talked about their future.  We talked about their education. We wondered about how to lead them so they go on to live lives of significance and deep meaning.

There is a famous proverb that says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it”. The most common interpretation of this passage is as an exhortation to do everything in our power to condition our children so that our religious practices become ingrained in them, the intent being that they will take these practices on as their own when they grow up and keep them for as long as they live. Perhaps that’s not how we would choose to articulate it, but that’s typically how it plays out in practice.

Our friend suggested a different interpretation which seems obvious now, but is missed by most people who read the words. The proverb makes it clear that for each child there exists a way that he, in particular, was destined to go. If that weren’t so it would say something like, “teach each child the way”, or “show the children the way”. Instead, we read that there is a way that each particular child was meant to go and without the proper training it is quite possible that he will not follow it.

This understanding will revolutionize the training regimen. First, we’re going to have to know our children’s hearts. Be prepared to discover something new, something the world has not seen before. It is not likely to match our expectations. Second, we are going to have to impart the faith and confidence and discipline and a thousand other character traits that he will need to live from it. It shifts from forcing him into submission to equipping him to walk the path laid out for him.

There is a significant implication here… that a path exists for each of us, that there is a way that we should go. There is no doubt that some kind of departure has taken place in each of our lives. We have all lost our way, and while we’d like to spare our children this agony, it is by no means too late for us.

It’s encouraging to know that there is a way for each of us. Deep down we’ve always known it. It’s also encouraging to know that it takes training to stay with it. It would be easier to walk away. Just because it’s difficult doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong.

Consider this permission to walk it… you’re going to have to fight for it.