“My child, obey your father’s commands and don’t neglect your mother’s instructions. Keep their words always in your heart. Tie them around your neck.” —Proverbs 6:20-21
This week you are praying for the healthy development of your baby’s neck. Interestingly in scripture, the neck is often used as a symbol of willfulness. In passages like Deuteronomy 10 and Nehemiah 9, the people are urged to stop being stiff-necked (stubborn and willfully disobedient). But this passage is different. Here, a father urges his child to think affectionately about his parents’ instructions and to consciously decide to remind himself of that teaching by tying a symbol around his neck.
This brought to mind memories of my youngest son when he was a toddler. He was wired with a fierce independence, which had many benefits but also resulted in hair-pulling stubbornness. I distinctly remember pleading with him to hold my hand in situations I knew would be dangerous for him. He refused. He would pull and tug and squirm, insisting that he didn’t need my help or my caution. He had little appreciation for my instruction.
Time, experience, and persistence on our part as his parents helped shape and direct his independence, and by the grace and hand of God, he began to trust our instruction. He’s a teen now, and as his parents, his father and I still occasionally contend with that willfulness. But with much prayer and perseverance, God has molded his independence into more positive than negative characteristics. He doesn’t easily bend to peer pressure, and he wants to succeed by his own effort. With the Lord’s help, we’ve seen him choose to heed and remember our instruction rather than resenting it.
It is never too late or too soon to pray that your child’s heart will be tender to your instruction and to the instruction of the Lord. I encourage you, don’t wait! Pray today that God will incline your child’s heart to your teaching and that your child will reflect fondly on the lessons he’s learned from you. And, may God give you great wisdom as you instruct him.