There was a man whose father was Nate Saint. He was a Christian and a famous martyr who died when his son was young by a group of natives in Ecuador who murdered him.  His wife went back into that village with her son and told the people who murdered her husband about God’s love and forgiveness. This village received God’s forgiveness and leadership and adopted this young man. Now in his fifties, his father’s legacy of aviation, care for the unseen people of the world, and love for God still resonates in his son.  If you are like me, when you hear this story you might be asking, how did this father make such a lasting impact?

My favorite car was a convertible I got when I was 17.   This was not a supped-up sports car, but it was a convertible. My dad spent hours with his welder cutting the top off a post office jeep -installing rollbars on the back, and making what was once a mail delivery truck into an affordable convertible car for his son.  He painted it cherry red.   While most kids may not think they’d want a used 1973 post office jeep, I delighted in mine as it was so cool, so unique, and represented a labor of love from my dad.

A couple in our church were praying for a Christmas miracle last year.  The husband needed a dependable work van for his job.  His Horizon community group heard about this prayer and went into action. Someone found a reliable used, nice work truck with decals from another company. Another small group member had the van detailed and removed the decals.  The group came together to buy a van for a church member who needed it to provide for his family. The couple told me how humbled he was at this act of gratitude and how delighted he was in his work van.  This is the power of generosity and community.

Too often, we don’t delight in our car because we are envying someone else’s car. We can’t wait to upgrade. We want something different, something newer, something older, bigger, smaller, etc. However, we all delight in very different vehicles.

Well, the same thing happens with our kids. We as parents struggle to delight in our children. We want them to be more serious, less serious, more athletic, more intelligent, less artsy, more focused, etc.

Every parent can delight in their children by following three steps: understanding your child’s bent, modifying your parental bend, and delighting in your benz.

I. Understand Your Child’s Bent

Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go, (and in keeping with his individual gift or bent) And when he is old he will not depart from it.

What it Doesn’t Mean:  Proverbs 22:6 is probably the best-known passage on the issue of childrearing and, ironically, the most misunderstood. One classic interpretation of this proverb goes this way:  Be sure your kids attend Sunday school and church regularly. Teach your children to know and obey the Ten Commandments; teach them to pray at mealtime, bedtime, and for emergencies. And be sure to feed them a steady diet of Bible verses. Do this early on because—watch out!—teenage rebellion, where they will sow a lot of wild oats, will detour their spiritual journey. When their fling is over, they’ll come back to God. You can count on it because this verse has God’s promise on it.

According to Their Bent: The Bible says to train them “in the way” or simply “in accordance with His way.”  It can refer to a literal way, such as a road, or it can be less literal and refer to the manner in which something acts, as it does in

Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.  Proverbs 22:6

Notice the word way… later in the same book of the Bible, this phrase “the way” is used to describe the uniqueness or pattern of something.

Proverbs 30:18-19
There are three things which are too wonderful for me,
Four which I do not understand:
The way of an eagle in the sky,
The way of a serpent on a rock,
The way of a ship in the middle of the sea,
And the way of a man with a maid.

In each of these, the term “way” refers to a characteristic manner. We are to train a child according to his or her characteristic manner. Some will be artistic, others athletic, and still others academic. One may be strong-willed, and another compliant. One child can be encouraged by rewards or recognition, while another couldn’t care less.

In the book,  How to Really Love Your Child, Tommy was passive and obedient until his teen years, and then he started rebelling. His parents tried hard, they took away privileges, rewards, discipline, etc.   Dr. Ross asked him why he changed?  He said, “My parents don’t really love me and know me. He recounted a time when he accidentally broke a window and hid in the woods. His dad found out and instead of sensing that his son was sorry, that it was a childish mistake, and that his son was scared and using this opportunity to draw nearer to him and then later making him do some chores to pay it off, the father came down hard as he whipped him. This “discipline” caused pain, anger, and confusion in Tommy who was depressed and longing for acceptance. Tommy’s dad didn’t understand Tommy’s bent and in response adapt his discipline and approach to his son’s unique tender heart. Tommy was a soft-hearted child who needed to be disciplined in accordance to his way or bent.

“Training up” calls for a relationship in which parent and child dedicate themselves to a shared purpose, with all the privileges and responsibilities that go along with it. The parent finds ways to encourage behavior that makes everyone happy and satisfies the child’s deepest needs. And it involves guiding a wild spirit in order to give it purpose and direction.

I recently saw an interview with Michelle A. Rhee. She was chancellor of the Washington, D.C. public schools from 2007 to 2010. She moved into Washington DC, put her kids in the public school system and did one of the most controversial education overhauls in American history. Rhee inherited a troubled system; there had been six school chiefs in the previous 10 years, students historically had below-average scores on standardized tests, and according to Rhee, only 8% of eighth graders were at grade level in mathematics. Upon taking office, Rhee immediately began to make a series of radical changes that relied on top-down accountability and results from standardized tests. She said there was no time to waste because children were being robbed of their futures.  In her first year on the job, Rhee unapologetically closed 23 schools, fired 36 principals and cut approximately 121 office jobs.   You can imagine the firestorm she unleashed.  But, as she was talking at this conference, she said that her mom was visiting on the weekend that it all hit the fan. Her name was being slammed in every newspaper, news story, etc.    Her mom pulled her aside that night and said, “When you were a little girl, you never cared much what people said about you. We thought you’d be anti-social, but that trait has served you well in this position.” Michelle laughed and spoke of how her focus and determination as a child was a character trait (a unique BENT), that her parents honored and fanned into flame.

So delighting in our children begins as we learn to delight in their unique BENT. Let’s face it, some kids are harder to connect with than others. Some kids challenge us as parents to learn how to delight and encourage their unique bent

So we first, understand their BENT, and then we BEND.

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