One evening I stuck my head out the door and hollered extra loudly, “Dinner!” because I knew that’s where they were. Keith said they started back immediately, Nathan on his shoulders, and Lucas walking along side. About halfway back he swapped boys, and told Nathan to run on ahead and wash his hands. As he watched, Nathan ran along the sandy path toward our driveway, then veered to the left instead of to the right toward the house. Immediately his father yelled, ‘What did I tell you to do?!” and Nathan instantly changed his direction and ran for the house without even a backward look.
As he approached the deep shade of the drive himself, Keith felt an inch tall. Nathan’s tricycle was off to the left, parked in the hedgerow by our chicken pen. That’s what he had been headed for because his father had taught him to always put up his tricycle.
He put Lucas down on the ground and sent him on into the house as he went for the tricycle himself, to put it up for his younger son, who had only been trying to obey his father in all things. Just as he got there, a gray-green cottonmouth as thick as a bike tire tube charged from the bushes. Keith was able to grab a shovel in time and kill it.
Imagine if that had been a four year old. Would he have seen the snake in time? Would he have even known to be on the look out as one should here in the north Florida piney woods? Cottonmouths are not shy—not only will they charge, they will change direction and come after you. A snake that size could easily have struck above Nathan’s waist, and at forty pounds he was probably dead on his feet.
Now let me ask you this—does your child obey you instantly? Or do you have to argue, threaten, bribe, or cajole him into doing what you tell him to do? Do you think it doesn’t matter? The world is filled with dangerous things, even if you don’t live where I do—traffic, electricity, deep water, high drop offs—predators. If you don’t teach him instant obedience, you could be responsible for his injury or death some day--you, because you didn’t teach him to obey. Because you thought it wasn’t that important. Because you thought it would make him hate you. Because you thought it made you sound mean. Or dozens of other excuses.
We put our boys in child seats before it was required by law. We actually had other people ask us, “How do you get him to sit in the seat?” Excuse me? Isn’t it funny that when the law started requiring it, those parents figured it out? Not getting in trouble with the law was evidently more important to them than the welfare of their children.
The hedgerows don’t go away when your child grows up. In fact, they become even more dangerous if you haven’t taught them as you should have. Isn’t it sad when the elders of the church have to nag people to get them to do one simple thing for the betterment of the church or the visitors whose souls they are supposed to care about, like sitting somewhere besides the two back pews? Those are probably the same people who as children had to be begged to obey their parents.
Do you want to know what someone was like as a child? I can show you the ones who threw tantrums; they’re the ones who threaten to leave if things aren’t done their way. I can point out the ones who wouldn’t share their toys; they won’t give up anything now either, especially not their “rights.” The snake in the hedgerow has bitten them, and this time it poisoned their souls, not their bodies.
Look around you Sunday morning. Decide which of those adults you want your children to be like when they grow up. It doesn’t happen automatically. It happens when loving parents work hard, sometimes enduring a whole lot of unpleasantness and even criticism, to mold their children into disciples of the Lord.
Danger hides in the hedgerows. Make sure your child’s soul stays safe.
Now Adonijah [David’s son and] the son of Haggith exalted himself, saying, "I will be king." And he prepared for himself chariots and horsemen, and fifty men to run before him. His father had never at any time displeased him by asking, "Why have you done thus and so?" 1 Kings 1:5-6.
On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. And I declare to him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them, 1 Samuel 3:12-13.