By WALTER ALBRITTON
Years ago I sometimes laughed and said I was disappointed in James Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family. My four sons were all grown by the time he published his helpful book titled “Bringing Up Boys”. Dobson’s counsel arrived too late to help Dean and me raise our sons.
I did get help from wise old Solomon who taught me in Psalm 127 that children are God’s best gifts. Using his poetic genius, Solomon described children as “the fruit of the womb,” God’s “generous legacy.” Sons, said Solomon, “are like arrows in the hands of a warrior,” and “Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.”
Mama Dean and I did not think our boys were a quiver full but we did believe they were a gift from God and that we were accountable to Him for raising them to become men who would honor Christ with their lives. I soon discovered as a father that successful parenting is impossible without God’s help. So I was often on my knees praying earnestly, “Help me, Lord; please help me find a way to be the father these boys need.”
Despite my many mistakes, our sons survived our parenting and became fathers of their own children. Like me, my sons have learned that Solomon was right when he said in his Proverbs, “The father of a righteous man has great joy; he who has a wise son delights in him” (23:24). And of course that is equally true of wise daughters.
Wise children bring joy to the hearts of their parents. Unwise children burden their parents with sadness. Every parent of a foolish child will agree with Solomon’s lament: “A foolish son brings grief to his father and bitterness to the one who bore him” (17:25). This bit of Solomon’s wisdom surely vibrates in the heart of every father or mother: “My son, if your heart is wise, then my heart will be glad; my inmost being will rejoice when your lips speak what is right” (23:15-16).
When our sons were all in their fifties, my wife said to me one day, “Walter, you are a blessed man; all of your sons respect you.” I have never forgotten how good it felt to hear her say that.
My heart was filled with joy because I knew for that to be true, each of my sons had also forgiven me for the mistakes I had made in raising them. Such forgiveness comes only with age. We are not likely to be forgiving when we are young. I know that from my own experience. I did not feel the need to forgive my father for his mistakes until I realized I needed the forgiveness of my own children for my blunders.
Solomon’s Proverbs are a storehouse of wisdom for fathers and mothers, sons and daughters. Parents need to listen to God by studying His words and following his counsel. Sons and daughters need to listen to their parents when they offer them godly counsel. Solomon suggests such wisdom will look better than a tattoo or a string of pearls: “Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck” (1:8-9).
When we ponder the challenge of parenting God’s best gifts, we do well to heed the advice of Solomon: “Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance” from the Lord (1:5).