My husband texted me photos of our son covered in grease and smiling big as he helped Chris change the oil on the riding lawnmower. The pair then cleaned out my mother-in-law’s entire barn and tinkered with her old diesel truck. Elijah is in his element when he’s around cars, tinkering, taking things apart, and putting them back together—especially if it has an engine. When he’s able to fix something, he feels accomplished, which is not how he feels about college. Every time the subject comes up, he cringes. He loathes the idea of “sitting in some stuffy classroom” for four or more years. After one of our more heated conversations, I took a moment to reflect on the gift of my son.
I scrolled through the memories in my mind beginning with when he was still in the womb. The kid was constantly on the move. He never stopped kicking and rolling around. When he learned how to walk, he didn’t just walk—he ran. As he grew older and explored the world, I would find him dismantling toys, radios, TVs, anything he could get his hands on and then put it all back together. And he’s still that way today. If you put him in a classroom for 55 minutes, the kid will shift constantly in his desk, fidget, and find some excuse to get up and move, but if you put tools in his hands, he’ll be focused for hours.
That’s when I realized my plans for my son weren’t God’s plans. As I pondered how Elijah was created, the verse Proverbs 22:6 came to mind. “Train up a child in the way that they should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
Train Up A Child
I had always assumed that this passage was reassurance from God that if all three of my kids learned Bible characters from felt boards, got gold stars in Sunday School, and attended all the pizza-filled youth group events—that even if my child strayed from the path—he would eventually come back to Jesus. But being the theologian I am, I learned this passage wasn’t insurance for Christian parents. In fact, it had nothing to do with faith and everything to do with the gift of being a parent.
The Bible tells us that children are a reward from God (Psalm 127:3). Each of our children are heavenly kissed blessings from the Lord—a mix of God’s creation and humanity. They all have their own personalities, sin propensity, dreams, free will, and passion. All rolled into one soul that’s a masterpiece in progress. Proverbs 22:6 tells us that we are to partner with God and draw out their talents and gifts with broad brushstrokes of purpose.
Proverbs 22:6 solidly affirms that parental guidance plays an essential role in the spiritual maturation of children. The word for ‘train up’ is chanak in Hebrew which translates as ‘to dedicate or inaugurate’ meaning: “Watch me in His love, model His ways, pray for me as you see my natural giftings. Help me use the gifts God gave me. Help me strengthen my talents and my natural bend. Show me the path that God has for me. Help guide me on the path that I was made for.”
So, what does this mean as a mom? We study our children. We get to know them from the inside out. We know what makes them happy, what drives their passion. We know their triggers, what makes them tick. We know their longings, their desires, and we definitely take stock of their weaknesses. As we gather these vital pieces of information, we can help them cultivate a thriving future. But here’s the rub: We have to change the stigma of not attending college. We have to lay down our own plans. We have to take a step back and say, “Not my will, Lord, but yours.”
Cultural Tides vs. the Bible
Sometimes fighting the cultural tide leaves us at loss, wondering if God has good plans for our children. Romana Vincent says God does! When in doubt, she writes, “When Cultural beliefs differ from biblical truths—follow the Bible! The truth is that God gives us the freedom to pursue any path we want – but God created each of us with a unique purpose and His perfect plan for our lives. God gives each of us special gifts and talents that pre-dispose us towards certain vocations in life. These gifts, combined with our individual personalities, our heart’s desires, and our individual experiences, make us uniquely suited for the purpose God created us to fulfill.”
Instead of going to college, Elijah wants to become a mechanic with plans to eventually open his own shop. He wants to follow in his sister’s footsteps. Our oldest daughter, Cheyenne, will graduate next week from a technical school in the field of graphic design, and she’s already been working at her dream job for several months as the assistant manager and lead graphic designer at a print shop. Of course, we were afraid of her choices, but we prayerfully chose to trust her instincts, aspirations, and God.
As a parent, we need to ask ourselves if college is our idea, a fear of our children not achieving the “American Dream,” or would we be embarrassed if our children didn’t pursue higher education. Kate Blosveren Kreamer, executive director in career and technical education agrees, and states, “There’s that perception of the bachelor’s degree being the American dream, the best bang for your buck. The challenge is that in many cases it has become the fallback. People are going to college without a plan, without a career in mind, because the mindset in high school is just, ‘Go to college.’”
She couldn’t be more correct. Going to college just to go to college reveals a lack of confidence in God to make our paths straight, nor do we trust that He has a purpose and a future for our children. The faithfulness of God should be the foundation of parenting. It should be the cornerstone for our children’s futures and the bedrock of our trust. Remember, “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps” (Proverbs 16:9).
When cultural beliefs and norms differ from Biblical truths, follow the Bible—faithfully. The American Dream, trends, and culture tell us to place our faith in our own abilities, our own potential. But the Bible tells us to place our faith in God and His perfect plan for our children.
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2).
Changing Our Mindset
We need to switch gears and embrace that our children may not attend a university but may attend a trade school, vocational school, or earn certification for their careers. Right now, there is a huge demand for trade jobs. According to the Bureau Labor of Statistics:
Production workers such as metalworkers, machinists, and welders: $40,140
Installation, maintenance and repair workers: $50,130
Construction and extraction workers: $52,580
Health information technologists: $58,600
Radiology techs: $63,120
Respiratory therapists: $63,980
Power line installers: $71,960
Power plant operators: $79,370
If my kids want to attend a trade school instead of college, that’s okay. My husband and I are all in. But the same holds true if they don’t because we’re all trusting God who has a plan and a purpose for them. While none of our plans ever play out the way we intended, God knows what our children want to be and who are they are supposed to be. Remember that God’s will is “good, acceptable, and perfect.”
If your child is unclear what path to take, ask God to reveal the next step. We have an incredible opportunity to partner with God and do our best to raise up our children in the way God wants them to go. In the meantime, I’m over the moon at the prospect of my son becoming a mechanic, because a good mechanic is hard to find!
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/digitalskillet
Heather Riggleman is an award-winning journalist and a regular contributor for Crosswalk. She calls Nebraska home with her three kids and a husband of 22 years. She believes Jazzercise, Jesus, and tacos can fix anything and not necessarily in that order! She is author of I Call Him By Name Bible Study, the Bold Truths Prayer Journal, Mama Needs a Time Out, and a contributor to several books. You can find her at www.heatherriggleman.com or on Facebook.