In Need of a Moral Compass
I’ve always found compasses interesting. One of the first compasses I ever had, I got from a Buster Brown Shoe Store. In our small community, the downtown shoe store (long ago run out of business when Walmart came to town) developed a gimmicky promotion that had a large paper-mache “goose” at the front of the store that laid “Golden Eggs” for any kid who got a new pair of “Buster Brown Shoes”. In the “eggs” would be a trinket of sorts for their young customers. I was thrilled when one year, my egg contained a compass. It was just a cheap little toy watch-type compass, but it never ceased to amaze me that no matter where I was, it knew which way was North.
Proverbs 22:6 tells us to “train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old, he will not depart from it.” It is important to note that the Proverbs are “principles” and not “promises”. This truism, however, is an important principle that should inspire parents to begin the process of
training their children early in life.
The word “train” in that verse comes from the Hebrew word hanak which means “to dedicate”. It conveys an idea of “hedging in” or “narrowing” and would sometimes be used in the sense of “starting” something. Horses are hedged in at the start of a race. Garden plans are started in small, confining containers in protected environments. So we want our children to have a careful “start” to their life journey.
The phrase “in the way he should go” is from a Hebrew phrase that literally means, “upon the mouth of his way”. This Hebrew idiom spoke of the authority with which one might deliver a message. A servant would deliver a message in “the mouth of the way” of his master or at the command of his superior.
The work of preparing our children for adulthood involves a confined beginning and definitive absolutes. There is both dedication and authority; supervision and truth; a standard and a reason. Eventually, we will not be able to be with our children every step of the way. They will have to run the race; they will be set out in life’s big garden. We can only hope and pray that we have prepared them in the way that they should go when that day arrives. And when that day does arrive, we hopefully will have given them a gift. A gift not hidden in a golden egg, but a gift that is worth more than a solid gold egg. That gift would be a moral compass.
A moral compass will equip them to run the races with several tools: the ability to make good decisions, a level of discernment that will alert them when they are going astray far before they are actually lost, and a guide to which they can frequently look to evaluate their progress. Let me share some of the facets or parts of the internal compass each child needs in a world that is often confusing.
1. An Absolute Standard
If it is an absolute standard, then it will not change. The compass needle should always point North. North never changes. If the compass needle doesn’t point north, you can be sure that it is because the compass is broken, not because north has moved.
For Christians, our “due North” is found in the Truth of Scripture. When a child learns at an early age that there is a God and He matters, that there is such a thing as absolute Truth and that it is for our protection, that we are sinners and we need a Savior, that grace is something that every
person needs whether they know it or not - they are being equipped to navigate their own course in the future.
But these things don’t get learned casually. They must be taught. Thus, a good parent makes sure that they are teaching them and placing them in situations where they can learn the importance of God’s Truth for their life. Think about that the next time you feel like skipping church or are too tired to read a Bible story as they end their day.
2. A Protective Case
Before long, my little dime store compass suffered a tragedy. I don’t recall whether I had stuffed it into my jeans’ pocket or perhaps left it in the sun or weather, but the cheap plastic “crystal” eventually broke and the needle was bent and demagnetized and it was useless. I learned several
lessons from this experience which live with me today. I’m sure my cheap compass would have lasted at least a little longer had I protected it in some sort of container or case.
Sadly, what is of little value often receives little protection. The long-term joy of ownership and usefulness of something important is often dependent on whether or not we protect it. In the end, protection requires sustained attention and personal devotion.
Is there anything more worthy of protection than our souls and the souls of those who call us “mom” or “dad”? The world is a rough place and they will grow up sooner than we can imagine. Until that time comes, our kids deserve the measure of protection careful parenting can provide.
We don’t set tender young plants out in the blazing sun of our garden immediately after they emerge from the shells of their seeds. We ought take the time to introduce our children gradually to the withering winds of our fallen creation and protect them and prepare them until their time
in the sun comes.
3. Timely Instruction
Instruction is best given in advance of need. I never had to use my compass to find my way home or to find a way out of a confusing forest. In fact, I don’t know if I would have known how to use my compass in such circumstances had I ever been in such a situation. You see, I really never received instruction on how to use a compass. For me, the compass was merely a toy and I hadn’t learned to see it as a tool. Had someone taken the time to instruct me on why and how I should use my compass, I would have viewed it with more respect.
Training our children also requires time. It is not just an issue of the quality of the time, nor is it merely a matter of having a certain quantity of time. It is about having both quality and quantity of time for instructing our children in the way that they should go so that they will have the right start for their life and that moral compass that is constructed in their hearts will serve them well forever.
Certainly, we would agree that our children are our most cherished possession on earth. We can’t depend on our culture or society to give them the instruction and direction they need. In fact, most usually, it will lead them astray from where they should go. Training our children is OUR privilege and we need to take is seriously. Character and integrity do not emerge in a vacuum. By modeling Biblical behavior and teaching them diligently, we can give them a gift of a lifetime – a moral compass that will point them always to truth, wisdom and discernment.
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