“Train up a child in the way he should go;
and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
Proverbs 22:6 (KJV)

As a child raised in a Southern Baptist home, I have heard this verse repeated more often than I can remember. My earthly father quoted it to me and my four sisters on what I felt was a daily basis. Of course, it just may have seemed that way, just as it seemed like I was receiving more corporal punishment than nurturing in those days. Obviously, children tend to exaggerate how their parents treat them more often than not. I may or may not be.

So, as I was saying, the above verse of scripture was used in our house often in relation to a life lesson that my dad was attempting to teach us.

Looking back, maybe this particular verse wasn’t ideal for all those times he would quote it but that was my father. He meant well but, in our adolescence, it was lost on us. He also would use visualization and/or demonstrations to teach us kids things.
Oh, did I forget to mention that Dad taught Children’s Church back then? Yep, and I thought he had done a magnificent job. No exaggeration this time.

As a children’s church worker, visualization was key. In fact, the use of puppets was a common occurrence to help teach us bible lessons as well as LIFE lessons. Dad would go to the library and check out books that taught puppetry and ‘how-to’ skits. He took his position seriously and oftentimes went above and beyond and even on one occasion, went way too far to teach us what to look for in the spiritual realm by checking out books on Satanic Occults and Demons.

Okay, so my dad may not have been the brightest crayon in the box back then, but he thought that he was helping the children be on guard. You know in 1 Peter 5:8 where it says: “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” (NLT); He was TRYING to teach us/them what to look out for.

As I was saying, my dad was all about “hands-on” teaching. He loved using object lessons in church as well as at home. 

Later in life, upon graduation from high school and returning home from basic training and AIT (Advanced Individual Training) with the Alabama Army National Guard; I had finally become a man, or so I thought. I had spent 12 years of school and 3 months of rigorous military training to establish my place in adult world. You’re probably laughing right about now but that isn’t even the funny part yet.

The first clue that I wasn’t the “man” that I perceived to be, was the fact that I was still living at my parents’ home. The next clue was that I had asked my father to borrow money after making a payment on a truck that I couldn’t afford so that I could go off with friends for the weekend.

You had to truly know my dad and how he went about things. First off, he never gave a straightforward answer. He wanted to ask questions. He wanted to know this. He wanted to know that. It was humiliating! I gave him bits and pieces of the truth but in fact, my intentions were not honorable or innocent by any means. My plan WAS to hang out with friends but not the “church friends” I may have implied. There would be drinking, smoking, and sneaking into the clubs in town. Listening to Genesis on CASSETTE; no not the first book of the bible but the Phil Collins variety. My parents actually bought me a belt buckle at a flea market one time with GENESIS on it, thinking it was a way for me to introduce the bible to my school pals. Yeah, THAT didn’t happen. However, several of them became lifelong Phil Collins fans so all was not lost. Well, I was lost but that isn’t the point here. Or then again maybe it is. I digress.

So, after asking my father for the money and him taking his own sweet time answering, I decided to go wash the truck that I could barely afford and get it all prepped for cruising the streets and shopping centers. Yes, that was the thing back then and gas wasn’t an issue. Well, it was an issue for someone who spent his check on a vehicle he couldn’t afford and needed his daddy to give him money to burn up the roads and pay his way to get into the nightclubs.

While washing away the “sins” of the trucks past, my own sins were piling up. Lies. Deception. Wicked schemes. Evil thoughts and so forth. I was contemplating all the sinful things that I would be doing while cleaning my truck. Meanwhile, my parents were packing to go out of town to visit relatives. Normally I would tag along with them but since I was a “man” now, I had a job and responsibilities, so I had to stay behind. {Now you can laugh} That was during the week; THIS was the weekend. Business then, pleasure now!

I might have left off that we were currently living in our church’s parsonage. You know, the house SITTING RIGHT BESIDE THE CHURCH, normally, for the Pastor and his family? Well, OUR Pastor just happened to be my uncle and they had their own home, so he allowed us to live there in the church’s home.

[The reason I mention this will be brought to light in just a bit.]

Continuing on, I finish washing my truck in the backyard of the parsonage. I go inside to clean up and splash on some ‘Obsession’ for the ladies and make sure my mullet was like I like it. Business up front and Party in the back! Don’t laugh, that was the style back then. 

As I’m headed into my room to get prepared for my shower, dad asks me if I had put away all of the items that I had used to wash and clean my truck. You know, stuff like the wash bucket, rags, dishwashing (and apparently car washing) detergent, and the water hose. I stated not yet but that I would and continue to my shower and primping duties. Once out and dressed for my sinful excursion, I asked my mom if dad was going to give me the money and she just shrugged and said that I would have to ask him. Mom never made decisions on her own back then, it was her husband’s duty. Like most men in those days, they were the king of their castle and they made all of the decisions. Yet for some reason, I would ALWAYS go to my mother (the Queen) first and she would ALWAYS send me to my father (his royal majesty). Rinse, cycle, repeat.

I had a fear of my father growing up. A fear that I really didn’t understand until many years later when I learned about the fear of YHWH. It wasn’t the cowardly fear, although there were times of that but it was the respect and awe type of fear.

Shrinking to the cowardly fear this time, I just waited. As my parents were getting set to leave and walk out the door, ole pops looks back and said: “don’t forget to pick up the wash bucket and put away the rest of the stuff.” He wanted to make sure, that come Sunday morning, the backyard was clear of the clutter so none of the church members started talking. You know how Southern Baptist can be. 😊

At least that is what I had thought at the time. We say our goodbyes and they head out of town. THEY were going to have a grand ole time and apparently, I was stuck at home with no money and a clean truck just sitting in the back yard, low on gas. He did not leave me any money. I was furious. I griped. I complained. I sulked. I even spoke in tongues; just not the type you would utter in front of your parents. In short, I pitched a rip-roaring fit.

There I sat all weekend pondering what might have been. I could’ve had so much fun, but no, I was stuck at home because my stingy, money-hungry father wouldn’t give his only son the funds that I would need to follow the path of destruction. Well, I didn’t look at it that way at the time, but I would later.

Sunday morning came and that particular day, we had what we Southern Baptists called a “Brotherhood Breakfast”; where the men of the church and guys like me who thought they were men, would come to gather in fellowship, eating things that clogged arteries and made you fat. And also, like Southern Baptist, made some even fatter! I loved it! It was free food. I was alone and wasn’t about to fix myself something so this played out really well for me.

As I sat there with some of the godliest men that I would ever have the pleasure of knowing yet couldn’t care less about at that time; my dad’s best friend and co-worker, as well as one of the deacons of the church, sat across eyeing me with a smirk on his face. I had been staring out the window wondering what my friends had done while I was in solitary confinement. We didn’t have cell phones back then so I couldn’t keep up with their every move, so it was like solitary confinement while being locked up in a jail cell.

He, (the Deacon) said: “Did you pick up the bucket your dad told you to pick up?” He knew I hadn’t because that same window I was lazily gazing out at, was the same window that looked straight into our backyard of the parsonage and anyone with half a brain and 20/20 vision could plainly see the bucket STILL sitting there. I focused on the bucket and said: “Naw, I guess that I forgot, but I’ll get it as soon as I am done eating”. He just smiled and said OKAY and carried on about his business. I guess he was done prancing around in MY business, so time to move on. How did he know that my dad told me to pick up that bucket anyways? Boy, Baptist Deacons seemed to know everything about everyone. Back to the story.

I got up and nonchalantly walked over to the stupid bucket and kicked it as hard as I could, which after eating what I had just eaten and wearing my “Sunday Best”, it might have traveled about five feet. Something then caught my eye, there on the ground. It was a piece of paper or something in a sandwich baggie. I bent down and picked it up, opened the baggie, and pulled out the paper. No, it wasn’t paper; well, it was, it was a paper CHECK. I unfolded the check and there in black ink in my father’s barely legible handwriting was the amount of $100.00 dollars. To me! His one and only son. His stinking, disrespectful, good-for-nothing idiotic and sinful son. I’m not going to lie, I teared up. Not because of what I missed out on over the weekend but because I had just learned a valuable lesson. One that has stayed with me for 38 years.

After slumping my shoulders in disbelief, I slowly turned toward the fellowship hall where we had just finished up breakfast, and there inside the rear door stood my dad’s friend staring back at me but this time it wasn’t a smirk on his face; it was a smile. Not the type of, “Ha, you just got played” kind of smile either. No, it was the smile of a man whom my father had SPOKEN to before leaving town and filled him in on what he had done. (Yep, THAT’S how he knew.)
The smile of a man who also was a father and knew that I had just learned one of life’s many lessons. Always do what your father tells you to do when he tells you to do it. In hindsight, it was for the best that I didn’t find the check considering what I would have done with the money.

I confessed to my dad when he and my mom returned home from their trip, that I hadn’t picked up the wash bucket until Sunday morning and had to spend all weekend at home. He simply smiled and said that I should’ve listened to him and done it right away. I agreed and went on about my day-to-day life. I can’t recall if I ever confessed to him later in my adult years and when I TRULY became a man, the intentions I had with his money back then, but that lesson has stuck with me, and I have tried to teach my own children the same. Not hiding a check under a bucket-type lesson but what happens when you don’t listen to your father type lesson.

I have two grown sons that I have shared the above scripture with when they were growing up as well as many other scriptures my earthly father AND my heavenly Father have taught me. Between my two sons, they have a combined total of six boys of their own and I pray that they will each share the story about how their Papa got stranded at home one weekend as a young man, for not listening and obeying HIS father. Maybe, just maybe, they will be more obedient and Proverbs 22:6 will echo in their heart and minds. I played the church game for many years after that but eventually just as the verse states: “when he is old, he will not depart from it”.

I am older, wiser, and a born-again believer and follower of YHWH. If I had to guess just how I got here; I’d say in part, at least, that my dad DID Train up his child in the way that he should go. And I have done the same with my children and even now, my grandchildren. I haven’t departed from it and pray they will not as well.

As I close this, I find myself wishing that I still had that check. I know what you all are thinking; that I just ended up using that money later on for the devil’s business. You would be wrong! My dad was much wiser after the library book fiasco and kindly retrieved the infamous check from my cold Obsession smelling hand. My father might have raised a fool, but his father did not.

 

About the Seeking Scripture Team: We are a group of believers from all walks of the faith, saved by grace alone through faith in our Messiah. While we are of one accord in many things, we are all works in progress and lifelong learners. Therefore the opinions of one may not always represent the opinions of all.

Ron Finger
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