So amazing to see one translation actually get this right. Years ago I came across a book about Old Testament textual issues and this verse came up for discussion. For centuries we have understood it to mean that a child, properly disciplined, will stay a disciplined person for as long as he lives. But that isn’t what the Hebrew says. Rather, it is better translated as the above. Once a child finds his way, he will never depart from it. His way is his path of life, his habits and behaviors that define who he is. We also call this his “bent”. A strong-willed child will be strong-willed into adulthood. A passive child the same. There is confidence and danger both here. Once you discover your child’s way, you have to learn how to work with it, and help him discover God given his personality set. Strong-willed children can’t be told. They must discover. Passive child must be told, but also encouraged, and so on.
God did not make us all the same (do you hear that public schools?). We were not all designed to sit behind a desk and learn something by lecture. Some of us learn better with our hands, with our eyes, even with our feet. And it is hard to watch them grow, learn, and make mistakes. But they must make mistakes to learn. And we must let them. We cannot and should not help the butterfly out of the cocoon. It take time to mold a life into its adult form. We must give it even freedom to do so.
If you are a parent, consider what kind of child you have. If he needs to explore, give him space. Correct him when necessary. Be clear about the rules and where the guardrails to his exploration are. But always encourage him. Discipline is about sharpening the edge, that learning from the past is effective lesson for the future. If you are a mom, then I doubly commend you this week, for you have labored to bring this life into the world, both to birth him and/ or to raise him. For Dads, I would also commend you, for you are the one necessary to bring this child into adulthood, to teach him the ways of the world, but to also understand how his way works and interacts with the world. Be gentle but firm. Be loving but willing to be hard when necessary. You both are his first and best teachers.
God bless you both today.