“…his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket.” Acts 9:25

I was 18 years old. It was my first week in basic training and the pace of change was intentional, fast, and dramatic. One of the goals of military basic training (aka, “boot camp”) is to shed your civilian identity in order to acquire a new military one. In part, because someone’s life may depend on it, including yours.

During that first week we took a battery of tests that were designed to identify our skills and strengths. Sometime after that week of testing I was called in and told that my scores were good enough to be offered a a chance to attend the US Naval Academy, but first I would have to attend a one year program at the Academy Prep school as a type of probation to demonstrate if I had the mental and physical skills to attend the Academy. Without anyone to counsel me, I turned it down. At that point in my life all I could see was five more years of “basic training” and THEN a six-year enlistment after graduation! Young, dumb, and foolish is how I often remember that decision! As you can imagine I have often wondered how my life would have been different had I chosen to go and graduated from the Academy. My decision, at that crucial crossroad, affected me, my marriage, and family, the rest of my life. Your choices will affect many others too.

In Acts 9, the future apostle Paul was at a crossroad. His conversion and preaching led to a plot against his life. The disciples in Damascus learned of the plot and executed a plan that had him escaping over the wall, during the night. In the verse did you notice that the folks who held the rope are unnamed, known only to God? Little did these “rope-holders” know that they held in their hand, literally, the life of the man who had been chosen to write the bulk of the New Testament. Their willingness to risk their lives was at a crossroad that had immense implications for the future.

Such is the role of a parent.

Parents are the “rope-holders” that hold the lives of their children in their hands. Parents of young children often lose sight of the immense influence they have upon their child and many unknown others whose life their child will touch. I know. I did. Keeping focus in the midst of a busy complicated life is difficult. It requires determination and the help of many friends who understand the importance of the short amount of time we have to train up our children. “Like a vapor that appears for a moment then vanishes away” is childhood. How quickly did yours pass? Your child’s will too.

Avoid “breathing” the spirit of the age by resisting the cultural atmosphere we live in. When we married over 42 years ago we had no idea about the depth of our ignorance concerning marriage and children. It became painfully apparent. We realized our attitudes had been shaped by our peer group, the culture, and thinking we were raised in. We did what we did because that was all we knew or that’s what was expected. Over the last 40 years thing haven’t changed. Ignorance abounds about how to raise children wisely. Marriages are falling apart at a record pace. Fewer are marrying yet still having children. Families are fractured. Our culture has become less child-friendly. Many things mitigate negatively against godly virtue and character. But you can resist. Here’s how.

Be self conscious in what you do and why you do it with your child. Ask yourself those two questions. Why do I do this? Why do think this way? Finding the answers will require two things: (1) brutal honesty and, (2) folks wiser than you to help get those answers.

Be committed, patient, and consistent. We know better than your child what they need to live and face the perplexities and difficulties of life. If you’re not sure then ask someone who is. It is worth whatever time and effort you have to put into it. Patience is demonstrated all around us in creation. Many things like the seasons, human growth and development, and agriculture all teach us that change happens gradually. So it will be with your child. Be patiently consistent. Yes, over and again you will be saying the same things to them. One day, God willing, they will be saying, “I find myself saying the same things to my children!” I know. I hear our grown children saying that to us. Consistency, not perfection, is a key to good parenting. Your words today mean the same tomorrow, when your tired, sick, happy, etc. You’ll teach your child that God’s words mean the same too.

Practice H.A.L.T.! Exercise great caution when you are Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired, because you will be, OFTEN. Self-control exercised will be self-control taught. A life-long lesson we, and our children, need to learn and practice.