We live what we learn

There are many sayings that connect learning to living. A Catholic 'priest' once said to my husband, "Give me a child until he is seven, and he will be mine forever." Many years ago, in my pre-Christian past, I worked with clinical hypnotherapy to help people with psychosomatic illnesses. It was then that I first realised how powerful the subconscious mind is, and how much it affects both physiological and psychological states and behaviours. Did you know, for example, that everything you see and hear in life gets stored? You might remember a night of unrest when your mind kept processing your late night's mental work in your dreams. Or you watched a very impressive movie before going to bed, and your mind kept dwelling on it in a jumbled up way. We may not be able to consciously recall every single detail of our past, but it is stored in our brain nonetheless. Some information may even turn into a heavy burden.

During an emotionally tense moment, for instance, someone may have said, "You are hopeless!" And because you believed it and took it on board, a feeling of failure has accompenied you ever since. Or you may have seen something that you couldn't get out of your mind for a long time. Some images will never leave us, no matter how old we grow. Whatever we learn, whatever is allowed to enter our mind, all will subsequently affect our thoughts and behaviour in some small or large way. Counsellors work with their clients all the time to off-load this baggage and to renew the mind. Does God pay attention to these influences on our thinking? He certainly does. As a matter of fact, he has quite a bit to say on the subject.

Prov.22:6, for instance, promises the following: "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." This verse is very interesting. The Hebrew idea of training includes three different concepts: (1) dedication to God - considering the child as belonging to God and taking up stewardship for it: (2) instruction - causing the child to learn everything essential in pleasing God; and (3) motivation - creating a desire within the child, so that s/he is internally motivated (not externally constrained!) to do what God wants him/her to do. A not so well known fact is that several different Hebrew words are translated with the one English word child, and that in this case a better translation would be dependent. This stretches the age limit quite considerably, meaning that as long as a young person lives with his/her parents, s/he is to be the recipient of training, regardless of age. But his training by no means equates to harsh and legalistic prohibitions; rather, it should create and nurture a positive motivation to engage in godly activities.

The content of training is also important - in the way that he should go. Remember Bill and Jane's children in The Boarder story? They were trained in two opposing ways: God's way and that of the world. They had the freedom to taste and experience those things they were told NOT to do. No wonder they chose to follow the wordly path! Children who live with double standards will often choose the lower one, but God expects just one standard - His own. There is a good example of this in the Old Testament, where God tells the Israelites how to teach His law to their children through everyday life experiences: "You shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be a frontlet between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land." (Deut. 11:18-21)

And then there is the promise that when the dependent child becomes independent, s/he will keep walking in the same godly direction. Having brought up two children who are now in their late twenties and actively walking with the Lord, I know how difficult it is to keep them from worldly influences. People have often accused us of sheltering our children too much, but my husband always had a standard reply: "Do I need to give them heroin in order for them to learn how bad it is?" Nonetheless, there were many times when I felt like throwing my hands in the air and giving up; yet we can't afford to give up! The stakes are too high. We need to inspire our children to develop a godly view of themselves and the world around them, and to see themselves as the person God has created for His purpose. Only then can they treat others likewise.

I will leave you with two of my favourite verses, to which I have clung often during trying times. Paul said, "I beseech you therefore...by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God" (Rom.12:1-2). And "Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy - meditate on these things" (Phil.4:8 NKJV). I pray that your own journey will be a successful one! With Christian love, Margaret


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