My brother became a smoker at the tender age of 13 and was diagnosed with lung cancer at age 44. By that time he was a three pack a day chain smoker. Two years later he died. When I told our mother of his death, she wept, saying, “I thought God was going to heal him.”
Many of us parents cannot bear to come to terms with the reality that sometimes our children make horrible, life shattering mistakes. We forgive them, we pray for them, sometimes we make excuses for them, but we cannot bring them back. We cannot undo our mistakes as parents, or their mistakes as young people.
The summer I was ten my best friend and I snuck over to the neighbor’s farm and rode his horse. It was great fun until the day of my last ride. I was sitting on the old work horse, when he decided to run up the side of the ravine. I held on to his mane for dear life, as I hunched down to avoid being knocked off by the low handing branches.
The farmer caught us, walked us home, and told my parents we had been trespassing. He told my mom that we could ride the horse as long as we came to the back of the field behind his house – that way he could be sure we were safe.
All kids do risky things. Most of us live to tell about it. But there is a reason why the fifth commandment says, “Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the earth.” Breaking the rules can lead to death.
There is a children’s bear story that has a PG 13 rating. I’t ain’t “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” or “Paula and the Wild Work Horse.” The PG 13 story describes a group of 42 “children” (probably kids in their late teens, based on the use of the Hebrew word) who went out on the street to ridicule God’s prophet, Elisha. These kids ended up being attacked and mauled by bears. We don’t know if they lived or died. What we do know is that there is a grave warning to us coming from God to honor our father and mother, our elders, so that we may live a long life.
Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell, a medical doctor writes this, “In summary, we have plenty of internally consistent biblical evidence that the events of that day in Bethel involved an unprovoked verbal assault by a group of young hoodlums—perhaps because they were glad to be rid of one man telling them what God said they shouldn’t do and didn’t want another one. They were old enough to know better, and they were challenging the credibility of God’s prophet, the only man who was there to stand up for God’s truth, bringing the word of life to a corrupt nation that had turned its back on God.” https://answersingenesis.org/bible-questions/elisha-little-children-and-the-bears/
Today we are living with the reality that an eighteen-year-old young man is dead, shot by a policeman. Many thousands are claiming he did not deserve to die. We don’t know yet if the young man or the policeman was to blame, maybe both. My heart goes out to Michael Brown’s grieving parents. We all run the risk that our kids may suffer harm – even death – due to their stupid, and sometimes minor wrong choices.
What can we parents and teachers do to prevent this disastrous and tragic ending to our children’s lives? We like to defend and cheer our kids on when they do well. But the real payoff comes when we discipline, correct, AND encourage. No parents want to wake up one day to realize their child was hurt or even killed because they did not stop the child’s dangerous, wrongful behavior. I personally know parents who have experienced this. Their child is dead or in prison, and the parents have no choice but to carry this burden the rest of their lives.
“Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul.” Proverbs 29:17