Why Proverbs 22:6 Needs a Leash

5:22 AM

I don't know, exactly, why this irks me so much or why I remember it like nails on the chalkboard, but it does and I do. Perhaps it's because it happens so frequently. Perhaps because it is so incongruous. Perhaps because I am a notoriously independent character.

In any case, I receive much fan mail on random blog posts that goes something like this: "Bailey, your parents have done such an amazing job raising you! It's evident that you have two good parents who really get it" -- and other such accolades that would be perfectly acceptable were it not painfully obvious that we weren't discussing parenting. It hurts. Not because my parents haven't done an amazing job. They have. Not because my parents don't get it. They do. It hurts because I am an individual.

I often write, mostly at Raising Homemakers, about how my mother especially has influenced me and how downright awesome she is. I do wish to hear my parents praised and do try to rise up and honor them. I understand that much of who I am was directly or indirectly shaped by two godly parents and to deny it would be lies.

But I'm still an individual.

And it bothers me because often I see, in the homeschooling community especially, a divine light shown on perfect parents and their perfect children. Another comment that slightly bothers me is when sweet mothers tell me they hope to raise daughters like me.

Please, no. Spare yourself.

I think this stems from Proverbs 22:6 let off the leash of context. Some teachers promise perfect children (after following their books and programs exactly) due to the unequivocal guarantee from said verse. Children and parenting became a formula. And if there's anything anyone needs to know about anybody, humans are not formulas. They're not functions: insert starting point and end up with a perfectly plotted existence.

I'm not a formula. Believe me, I am who I am because my decisions, my experiences and my personality, as well as good parenting and being raised in a Christian home, were unique to me. When people immediately praise my parents for any good writing I happen to crank out or any good point I happen to stumble upon, they neglect to take note that I am an individual and that I explore and create distinctly from my own perspective.

(And then the homeschool naysayers pile in, pitying our brainwashed existence, hoping discreetly that we can "get out" -- granting that some are "fairly smart" for being so tragically limited. It disgusts me the way people on both sides treat Christian kids like brainless products of their parents instead of any other child in a loving relationship.)

I say this not only to puff my own image up but because it breaks my heart to see moms fretting over their children's lives as if they could do just a little more to fix all their problems. It breaks my heart to see good parents taking the blame for their children's rebellion. "Good heavens," we think of these poor souls, "they broke the formula. Here's where you went wrong. Read this book. Follow this style. But anyway, it's too late for you."

That is a lie. There is always something we could have done. There are always mistakes in imperfect people -- children and parents alike. The most ineffective antidote is turning parents into gods. Parents do that by taking Proverbs 22:6 and running it as a promise. Children and their psychologists do it by tracing every single problem back to the parents' responsibility. All roads, in the end, lead home, but not all responsibility does. Every man's child is an individual.

This attitude disturbs me on another level -- it totally precludes the grace and power of God. That stellar homeschooler's child? He's the way he is because his mother used this curriculum and his father read that devotional. He's the way he is because he didn't watch tv, because he didn't go to public school, because he grew up in a good church that didn't have a -- slight intake of nervous breath -- youth group.

Someone asked me if I thought I'd still be a Christian if I had been born and raised in, say, a practicing Hindu family. Yes, I would be. The same curiosity I use to hunt out the roots of the Christian practices and principles I would probably apply to my Hindu beliefs. Anyone who knows me knows I don't take a dogmatic statement lying down. (That's where my obsessive-compulsive geekiness comes from, I do believe.) But beyond all that, I am a Christian because my Savior reached out to me, reached out to those sins hiding under good upbringing and good little Sunday school girl answers. I don't base my faith on my parents, my family or my homeschooling. I base it on the truth that I know, that I've experienced, and that the Spirit has revealed to me through His word and His presence. I am saved because of His grace, not my upbringing; I am who I am because He is mine, not because I attend daily parental indoctrination, not because I skipped public school, not because of any other external thing.

The grace of God reaches through all mistakes, the only thing we all do best.

If I write about my amazing parents, feel free to share my applause. If I don't, please direct all glory to God alone.

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8 impressions

  1. Wow. I never really thought of it from the homeschooling kid's perspective. I do agree that I need to parent each of my children individually, teach them each about God as they are teachable and as moments become available, and with sensitivity to God's leading. It is hard not to see someone you admire and emulate them, but it's a good truth to hear that it's not the "formula" they used, but the truth and life they lived and the child they have.

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  2. That's an important point: Parents can give a child the best upbringing ever, raise him to be a law-abiding citizen. But they cannot give him salvation. Only God can save sinners, not their parents.
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  3. I know I've been guilty of this, mostly because I'm secretly hoping there *is* some magic formula which will churn out spiritually minded, Lord-loving children. And, I confess, part of it is to make me look good. *sheepish grin* But more so, I want rich relationships with the Lord for my children. I want to help spare them from living lives which might be hostile to God. It's not an easy job. A formula would help.

    I can get so bogged down with trying to be "the perfect parent" that I forget to be a fun one. I forget to enjoy my children. (Sad, eh?) Thankfully, I came across a lovely quote several months ago. "There's no way to be a perfect mother, but a thousand ways to be a good one." I breathe a sigh of relief every time I consider that.

    *SIGH*

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  4. I think I know how you feel, Bailey. People have given me those remarks, too - and I've tended to feel a little cheated when I heard them (and recalled them days, months and years afterwards).

    I like how you point out that the praise isn't supposed to be taken from your parents and draped over yours, but it's to be offered to the Lord.

    I think God uses parents and circumstances to shape and mold us, but all-in-all, it is Christ who makes it all come together into who we are.

    As for the Bible: It won't fail - but people can twist it a bit, can't they?

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  5. Just growing up, I've seen how my parents have had to change parenting styles when they work with each child. (Yet still numbers 2 and 4 ended up a lot alike.) And, if being a good kid depends on not attending public school, my family would not have been complimented for so long. Basically, I agree, there isn't a formula for children, although it would be nice if there was one, it would make parents' lives around the world a lot easier.

    I've actually asked myself the hindu question before but it was if my family believed in the occult. I said two different things. One: I would still have been found by God because he knows the outcomes and he knew I am His. Two: I was placed in a Christian home for the very reason that I would become His through it.

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  6. Seriously, you are one of the most quotable bloggers I've come across. Great stuff, Bailey!

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  7. You hit the proverbial nail on the head! (No pun intended. *grin*)

    ~RacheL

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