Saturday, January 23, 2016

Purpose of Parenting

I'll preface this with I'm still never sure whether I'm qualified to offer parenting advice, but I guess for some people it's helpful. Christian parents will probably get what I'm trying to say here.
Or maybe--for some of you--this will be a "light bulb moment." I look forward to your comments.

My oldest son is about to turn seven. As I've been reflecting back on the past year, I realized he's matured a lot with trying to control his emotions. He doesn't always automatically jump into tantrum mode over that unfair thing his sister did to him. Often, I can visibly see him seek to control his body or anger when he's upset. That's quite difficult feat for most of us. Though, he's certainly still a typical first-grader.

While all of this maturing is going on, he's also seeking new responsibility and deeper levels of control over his life. He has always been a relatively "go-with-the-flow" kid, but I now see he wants to make more of his own choices about where to go and when, what to watch on television, and who to spend time with.

But, isn't that how all of us are from the time we're born until well into adulthood (or old age)? We're continually learning to do a better job of controlling our feelings...or at least we get a grip on what we do with our feelings. At the same time, we are seeking to have choices about what happens in our own lives for our own happiness, self-satisfaction, or whatever. You could go to California or New York or Indonesia, and it will always be true. That's our natural state-of-being.

As the years go by, though, at some point or another we've realized that our God has our better interest in mind much more than we could ever understand on our own.

Slowly, this shift begins to happen where we acknowledge that, "Hey, maybe making my choices on my own isn't always so simple or so great. And the consequences don't always work out the way I'd like them to. Maybe relying on God is the more favorable way to go here."

The tipping point comes when we realize we've got to rely on God for *everything* to sustain us. We can't blame anyone for how our lives are screwed up. We can't keep longing for fancy stuff that we want and may never have. Satisfaction and true joy come only from reliance on Christ. Even when truly terrible things happen to us, we can still have joy in Him.

Back to parenting.
So, when we're raising our kids we worry about them a lot, right? We worry whether they'll be able navigate the world without us. We worry whether they'll be able to make the right choices without us.
(By the way, all this worrying stuff doesn't make a lick of sense, so just stop it!)
What are we supposed to do?

We try to teach them about playing nice, following the rules, being respectful, and good hygiene. To what end? Does telling them all that stuff--or even modeling it for them--make them a productive member of society? Does it give them happiness? Does it give them real, true, deep-down-where-it-counts kind of joy?

We might even try to teach them to pray and read their Bibles. Good job, if you're doing that, since that's where the real answers are! But a lot of them will fall away. They'll fall away from the church or from God altogether...
If they're not grounded in relying on Christ for everything to sustain them.

So, parenting is not about teaching our kids to read and eat their vegetables and saying NO to drugs. It's not about pandering to their every whim or teaching them to suck it up so they can be independent from Mommy and Daddy. Parenting isn't even about teaching our kids to love one another (though, I think that one is of the utmost importance).

Parenting is about the shift...the shift from being dependent on Mom or Dad to being totally dependent on God. It is moving the child from relying on us to  relying on Christ.

None of us will ever be able to get to a point where we have total control over our actions, our emotions, or making wise choices. Not in this life on this Earth.

But God

But God has us. He's got our backs, Parents.

He's got our kids' backs. He loves 'em way more than we do. Infinitely more than we ever could.

Our kids are going to make tons of crazy mistakes (just like we do, ahem). They'll follow the whims of their fleeting emotions without realizing the consequences of their actions. They will have days when they get into big BIG trouble.

But. If we have modeled for them that we are totally, utterly, unashamedly, dependent upon our Creator for our very breath

they'll come to Him.

They'll remember the times you were having the worst days and you cried out aloud to God to come rescue you. They'll remember that you didn't always act like you were the final authority on every. single. thing. I hope my kids remember that I even ask for forgiveness. A lot.

Yes, we should continue to parent in a manner that warrants our children's respect. I'm not saying you ought to look like a weakling, but in the grand scheme of the Universe we acknowledge that we are all so frail.

I hope my soon-to-be-seven-year-old will learn to love the Lord our God with everything that's in him. I hope he'll learn to love others and be passionate about relationships with other human beings. I certainly hope he'll learn how to eat right, use his manners, and run a household all by himself. I even hope he'll have a satisfying career in some field that I probably can't even dream up yet. But--above all else--I have to constantly remind myself that life is fleeting
none of this stuff matters
in the light of the One True Eternal Thing.

So, take heart, weary parents. God entrusted you with caring for these young ones, but he also trusts you. God trusts you. I'll let that sink in for a minute.

Let the little ones rely on you for now.
Just do your best to love them,
be real with them,
and model for the kids how you rely on God.

(Hopefully you're not worrying about it. I told you to knock that worrying stuff off! There's nothing you could do that could screw them up so bad that God can't redeem it, right?)

I will leave you with this song about being the example you need to be.

"...Let them see You in me let them hear You when I speak
Let them feel You when I sing
Let them see You, let them see You in me

Who am I with out Your grace, another smile another face
Another breath a grain of sand passing quickly through Your hand
I give my life an offering take it all take everything..."

- Let Them See You by JJ Weeks Band