The child is father to the man


“The child is father of the man,” wrote William Wordsworth.1 Want direction for the future? Then read your life backward.

Job-placement consultants at People Management International Inc. have asked over seventy thousand clients this question: what things have you done in life that you enjoyed doing and believe you did well? “In every case,” writes founder Arthur Miller Jr., “the data showed that people had invariably reverted to the same pattern of functioning whenever they had done something they enjoyed doing and did well.”2

Or, to put it succinctly, our past presents our future. Can this be true? Can childhood interests forecast adult abilities? Can early leanings serve as first sketches of the final portrait?

Biographies of spiritual heroes suggest so. Start with the Egyptian prince. As a young man he excelled in the ways of the court. He mastered the laws of the ancient land. He studied at the feet of the world’s finest astronomers, mathematicians, and lawyers. Fifteen hundred years later he was remembered as “learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and . . . mighty in words and deeds” (Acts 7:22).

What little we know of Moses’s upbringing tells us this: he displayed an affinity for higher learning and an allergy to injustice. Remember his first adult appearance in Scripture? He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew slave and killed the Egyptian. The next day Moses saw two Hebrews fighting and intervened again. This time one of the Hebrews asked, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us?” (Exod. 2:14).

A prince and a judge. How accurate is the description? Turn to the second act. To avoid arrest, Moses scampered into the badlands, where he encountered more injustice. “Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters. And they came and drew water, and they filled the troughs to water their father’s flock. Then the shepherds came and drove them away; but Moses stood up and helped them, and watered their flock” (Exod. 2:16–17).

What drove Moses to protect these young women? Their beauty? His thirst? Maybe both or maybe more. Maybe irrepressible seeds of fairness grew in his soul. When he decked a cruel Egyptian or scattered chauvinistic shepherds, was he acting out his God-given bent toward justice?

The rest of his life would say so. Forty years after he fled Egypt, Moses returned, this time with God’s burning-bush blessing and power. He dismantled Pharaoh and unshackled the Hebrews. Moses the prince escorted his people into a new kingdom. Moses the judge framed the Torah and midwifed the Hebrew law. The strengths of his youth unveiled the passions of his life. God planned and packed you on purpose for his purpose.

Max Lucado, Cure for the Common life

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