Theology in Parenting
What is it about parenting that relentlessly pummels us at the deepest core of our being; exposing all our insecurities and weaknesses? We give and give, and give some more yet, and at the end of the day still feel we’ve failed at what matters most to us.
Could it be that we need to take one giant Time Out? Is it possible that we are overwhelmed by the endless trees surrounding us that we are unable to locate the forest? In his book “Parenting; 14 Gospel Principles,” Paul David Tripp says that what most Christians lack is a Big Picture Parenting Worldview. Consumed by the tyranny of the urgent and the endless list of good things we attempt to do as parents, we find ourselves depleted and discouraged. We have lost our way. We need help.
Many of you who are reading this are parents of teenagers. You are not newbies to the parenting gig, but you may be novices at the whole adolescent thing. Where is the child who used to sit and watch you shave, who laughed at all your jokes, and couldn’t sit close enough to you on the couch? You look at this young person who rivals you in height and has surpassed you in technology and you can hear the clock ticking down as time with him under your roof is running out. You are afraid of what lies ahead, remorseful of past mistakes and missed opportunities. You need grace.
I remember the day our first child was placed in my arms. I was under the misconception that, since I grew this child in my own personal body and paid the bill to bring her home, she belonged to me. What can feel more gloriously consuming than a helpless newborn breathing their shallow little breaths against your neck? You sigh as you roll your eyes toward heaven and your heart whispers, “Mine...all mine.
I discovered early on, that children are not sweet little lumps of malleable clay.They have thoughts. They have opinions. They say and do things that make no sense at all. I learned, among other things, “You can set a child on the potty but you can’t make her pee.” Trying to force my will employing a loud voice and big stick only led to frustration on my part and provocation in the heart of my child. The stage was set for conflict. Do we want to die on the hill of My Will Be Done or is there something bigger?
Parents who believe they own their children seek to gain a sense of value and self-worth from them. They tend to take their child’s misbehavior and failures personally. They are often quick to anger and quick to punish. They see their offspring as projects they can mold into whatever they choose. Children become trophies; a child’s successes in academics, music, sports,and even good behavior validate the parents’ competency and feeds a false sense of power and control. When children fail to meet social markers of success, parents are left angry and disappointed.
Where is our hope, our joy, our sense of mission in parenting? Is it not to acknowledge that our children first belong to God? That they are given to us for a divine purpose that will change us both? What if you found out you were working really hard at things that weren’t all that important to God?
The fact is that we are called to parent broken sinners who are incapable of meeting our needs. They do have the amazing capacity to bring us to the end of ourselves where true change can finally begin. Parenting is humbling. Parenting is messy in every possible way. But out of this messiness and humility, God can produce beautiful trophies out of us and our children that shine for him and reflect the redemptive work only Jesus can accomplish.
Questions: Can you think of a situation from your own family that might suggest you are parenting out of a sense of ownership? In what areas of your parenting do you need to rely more on God’s grace?