Is there a tougher job on Earth than being a parent? Yet, also, is there a higher calling?
I’m reminded of a story told to me by one of the moms in my church. She told me of a time when her 9-year old son was with her in the supermarket. He wanted some candy item and she told him, “No.” So like every normal child, he threw a huge tantrum, whaling at the top of his lungs about how much he “needed” that candy and how “unfair” it was that his older sister used to get candy but now he didn’t. After some time he calmed down. Then came the zinger…
Son: “Mom…I thought you just took a class at church on how to be a better mommy.”
Mom: “That’s right, son, I did.”
Son: “I have to tell…I don’t think it’s working.”
Somewhere between ages 2 and 25, in the opinion of most children, parents go from being complete idiots and dictators, filled with all sorts of sadistic and cruel motives that lead to power plays, to the wisest people in the world. In reality, parenting is a tough calling. There are some “manuals” one can read in preparation, but the fact is…it’s a “learn-as-you-go” profession. Since no two children are completely alike (even identical twins), no two children require the same parenting strategies. Yet, by the grace of God and some consistency in approach, our children usually do alright and become the persons God created them to be.
Families matter!...and the core of the family is (are) the parent(s). The good news is that there is no perfect parent, so we don’t need to pretend we need to live up to that standard. The bad news is that there are no perfect children. After all, our children are by-products of our genes…so if we are not perfect, neither are they. Yet God is able to overcome our shortcomings so that we might be a part of his marvelous process of raising the next generation of God-loving disciples.
So what is God’s hope for those of us blessed to be parents or grandparents? After nearly 30 years of pastoral ministry and having raise (with my wife) three terrific children who are now adults walking with the Lord, I think I can summarize parenting in three basic rules (or goals):
Rule 1 – Love your children as God would love them.
That means sacrifice. It means expecting from them what God expects. It means sometimes saying, “yes” and sometimes saying, “no.” That means patience when they are trying us. It means being all of the things Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 13 simply because God says THAT is love.
Rule 2 – Train your child to be godly, not perfect.
Your child is NOT on earth to bring you glory, but to glorify God. So, keep your child’s life focused on godliness (which glorifies God) and not perfection (which glorifies YOU.) That means implementing a standard for living that God uses: the Bible. It means we (Christians) will be different from those who do not know or love God…and it means teaching them how to manage and embrace that difference. Thus, we teach our children God’s Word…and when using words is necessary, that works well, too. We teach them about “Law” and “Grace”…about fairness and responsibility…about forgiveness and confession.
Rule 3 – Never give up on God’s hopes and/or promises.
Even children can experience despair and disappointment. Remind them day after day that God created them to be blessed with a future of “prosperity and hope.” (See Jeremiah 29:11). That means giving our children a sense that their future is held in God’s hands. We place the hope of God’s promises deeply into their hearts so they will not only desire those blessings, but see us striving for them, too.
Parenting is, ultimately, not about “us.” Parenting is all about Jesus Christ…who is IN us (as Godly parents), but also whom we know wants to use us to draw our children into his family.
My friends, though some believe February is the month we celebrate love, I believe May and June (i.e.: the months for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day) are the true “Love” months. As we celebrate mothers and fathers, we (hopefully) celebrate Love. For those blessed with godly parents, be thankful. For those who have blossoming children still at home…cultivate them well for God’s purposes. And remember what one wise 10-year old once said,
“You really shouldn’t say ‘I love you’ unless you mean it.
But if you mean it, you should say it a lot…People forget.”