Train Up a Child

A Lamplighter Moment from Mark Hamby

I have a test for you today. Take a few seconds to read the following lists. Try to spend the same amount of time on each one–focus…ready, set, go!


ocean/breeze bread/b_tter

leaf/tree music/l_rics

sweet/sour sh_e/sock

move/actress phone/b_ok

gasoline/engine chi­_s/salsa

high school/college pen_il/paper

turkey/stuffing river/b-at

fruit/vegetable s­_lt/pepper

computer/chip television/rad_o

chair/couch l_nch/dinner

Now, close your eyes and try to remember as many pairs or single words as you can.

From which column did you recall the most? In all probability you remembered more words or pairs of words from column B. Correct? Research demonstrates that you’ll remember three times as many from the column that contained fragments. Why? Because the fragments required you, in those few seconds, to concentrate. The blank space required you to exercise a minimal amount of focused effort that resulted in sharpened memory retention.

Education today, for the most part, involves passive learning. What you just experienced was active learning that required focused attention. In Proverbs 22:6 we have that so oft quoted Bible verse: “Train up a child in the way he should go . . . .” Actually, the word “train” is insufficient to understand the full significance of this word. The Hebrew word חנך-or its expanded English form “Hanukkah”- carries the idea of “dedication,” which describes the feast of Hanukkah or the feast of dedication. Perhaps this means that we as parents are to “dedicate” our children to the Lord (whether they pursue a career as a carpenter or a theologian) and when they are old, they will not depart from it. But even this definition falls short.

The root word for “train, instruct, initiate” (חנך) also carries the idea in Arabic of “palate,” referring to “rubbing the palate of a child.” The Hebrews and Egyptians rubbed the palate of a newborn child with dates or figs. It is not known exactly why, but it would appear that they were creating a sucking reflex for the child so that he would begin nursing.

“Training” our children requires much more than providing an education. It requires the creation of appetizing learning environments and experiences so that our children will passionately pursue worthy goals that are based on truths not easily forgotten-like the words that were etched in your memory because you gave a little more effort and focus. It’s time to turn passivity into passion by initiating experiences that cultivate our children’s tastes for what is great and glorious.

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