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August-September 2016


Relentless Parenting


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FIRST GLIMPSE: Rough Around the Edges


“That old man wasn’t kidding when he said the only way in and out of the gorge was ‘through the water,’” I muttered to myself as the stream rose past my ankles to my knees, then finally my waist.

My latest outdoor adventure was the result of a casual conversation with an elderly gentleman in a rustic coffee shop just outside of Portland, Oregon. When he learned I was in town for a couple of days, a broad smile spread across his weather beaten features. “Do you like the outdoors?” he asked. “The real outdoors?”

He went on to describe an unforgettable hike, a gorge accessible only by a steep climb and through a snow-fed stream. “You probably won’t see any other tourists, and you’re going to get really cold and wet,” he concluded, “but I promise the hike will be worth the effort.”

It was. When I splashed out of the deep water and rounded the first bend of the gorge, I gasped in amazement. Sheer, moss-covered walls rose hundreds of feet on either side of a canyon so narrow I could reach out and touch both sides. Enormous ferns and towering spruce trees cast eerie shadows through the dim, filtered light. I couldn’t help but feel as though I had been transported magically into a scene from Jurassic Park.

After a half hour of jaw-dropping scenery, I reached the end of the gorge and a final breathtaking sight. A waterfall, visible only from the floor of the canyon, rushed over the emerald walls to plunge a hundred feet into a deep blue pool. Awestruck, I found a dry spot near the edge of the pool and pulled out a thermos of coffee.

As I savored my coffee and drank in the view, I couldn’t help but notice the rocks lining the base of the falls—black, round, and perfectly smooth. Years of falling water and tumbling against one another had worn away the rough edges leaving a ring of beautiful stones, naturally polished and shiny, the perfect frame for the unforgettable picture before me.

As I wound my way back down the gorge, my mind kept returning to those stones. What a wonderful analogy of the “process” of parenting! Day in and day out, year after year, parents faithfully pour themselves into their children—loving them, correcting them, guiding them, and correcting them again—a daily task that never seems to end. Relentless parenting!

Proverbs 22:6 describes this process as “training up” a child. This Hebrew word hanak literally means to dedicate. It implies channeling or narrowing a child’s conduct into the way of wisdom, starting him or her down the path of righteousness toward a lifetime of serving God. It’s not an easy process, and sometimes parents wonder if they are making any progress at all.

Then, one day, they glance at their children and realize suddenly the rough edges have been worn away; their children have been shaped, molded, and polished into beautiful living stones that will become the foundations of their own households of faith.

The old man was right. The hike left me cold, wet, awestruck, and thankful for my daughter. It was great way to spend the afternoon.


About the columnist: Eric K. Thomsen is managing editor of ONE Magazine. Contact him at




©2016 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists