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The Heart of the Parent January Roundup: Tension

The Heart of the Parent January Roundup: Tension

Over the past mon­th, we’ve looked at five dif­fer­ent char­ac­ter­is­tics of the heart of a par­ent. Plac­ing them side by side high­lights an impor­tant truth: if we pur­sue God’s vision for par­ent­ing, it will like­ly result in an increas­ing ten­sion in our hearts. We’re often faced with oppo­site-seem­ing com­mands, and to bal­ance them cre­ates pres­sure.

We con­sid­ered the Won­der we’re to have as par­ents — an amaze­ment at the call­ing God has given us and the joy of see­ing our chil­dren grow and mature. But our hearts are also sup­posed to rest in Antic­i­pa­tion, know­ing that God has far greater plans for our chil­dren than we could even imag­ine.

The­se two char­ac­ter­is­tics can war in our hearts, play­ing a mas­sive game of tug-o-war as we seek to rest in the bless­ing we have but also run towards God’s faith­ful­ness and call. Should we look back and out at who are kids are, or should look we look for­ward and ahead to who God will make our kids?

Like­wise, the call on our lives is to be par­ents of Courage, but also filled with Peace. The­se are char­ac­ter­is­tics that can also go to bat­tle in our hearts, even tak­ing root as guilt. It’s nat­u­ral to see the only result of courage as con­stant fight­ing — con­stant work — but also to see the only path to peace as being a lay­ing down of arms and sur­ren­der — the oppo­site of courage.

It’s easy to imag­ing a par­ent who’s filled with peace won­der­ing if she is ade­quate­ly stand­ing up for her child in courage. Doesn’t peace mean that every­thing is going well — that there aren’t wor­ries? But this is a very wor­ri­some world! Might the only path to peace be the one ignor­ing the trou­bles and strug­gles?

In the same vein, a par­ent who’s always rush­ing into bat­tle for his child doesn’t seem at all to be some­one described as “peace­ful.” If we are to zeal­ous­ly guard grace and truth for our kids — if their hearts require our vig­i­lance — rest seems a rather large order.

In both cas­es, if we take a step back and con­sid­er the call of God on our hearts, it’s easy to see the pit­falls Satan has for us. Lean too far towards one healthy char­ac­ter­is­tic? We might be start­ing to move away from a dif­fer­ent, also healthy real­i­ty. This pull can cre­ate a taugh­t­ness in our hearts like a stretched rub­ber-band, leav­ing us close to snap­ping or fly­ing off at a moments notice. Cer­tain­ly, it can pro­duce guilt and frus­tra­tion!

But that’s why the first core char­ac­ter­is­tic is so impor­tant: our over­rid­ing Love of God. More than any­thing, our hearts need to be con­stant­ly defined by a pas­sion­ate pur­suit and love of God, per­son­al­ly. We are chil­dren of God first and par­ents of our chil­dren sec­ond.

As we find our­selves increas­ing­ly obsessed with God and over­whelmed with love for God, we’ll find the­se ten­sions eas­ier to nav­i­gate. The more we see the­se char­ac­ter­is­tics as good encour­age­ments from a lov­ing Father, rather than as strict rules from an author­i­tar­i­an, the more we’ll be freed to enjoy pur­su­ing courage and won­der, antic­i­pa­tion and peace.

We need to pri­or­i­tize the time we spend falling in love with God.

This pro­duces its own pit­falls, though. Par­ent­ing — espe­cial­ly in the ear­ly years — is not a stage of life con­ducive to long devo­tion­al times or stud­ies. It’s a sea­son of lit­tle sleep, many frus­tra­tions and con­stant noise and stim­u­la­tion. Par­ent­ing can be like Elijah’s storm (I Kings 19): God isn’t in the wind, or the earth­quake, or the fire. God is in the whis­per — the qui­et, still sound of his voice. When, as par­ents, do we get to expe­ri­ence this small voice?

If we’re to nav­i­gate the ten­sions of par­ent­ing — the pit­falls of our heart — we need to be first and fore-most­ly over­whelmed with our role as chil­dren of the King. And to do that, we need time with our Father. Time at his feet, sit­ting and learn­ing and grow­ing. When is that time for you? There is noth­ing more valu­able — not the TV show you use to unwind at night, not your week­ly date nights, not even your Face­book news feed (I know — it’s a close sec­ond). All of the­se are good and appro­pri­ate in their place; all of the­se need to be placed after time with God.

How have you pri­or­i­tized your love of God and time with God even in the messi­ness of par­ent­ing? What have you found that works well or that helps you nav­i­gate the­se ten­sions? Share them for oth­ers in the com­ments below!

The Heart of the Parent: Peace

The Heart of the Parent: Peace

The world today has a pret­ty set opin­ion regard­ing anx­i­ety: Expect it. There’s dan­ger all around, and as Moth­er Gothel sings in Tan­gled, “It’s a scary world out there!”

Over the past 15 years, the world has changed in huge ways through the inter­net. Today, we have imme­di­ate access to more par­ent­ing tools, knowl­edge and wis­dom than ever before. But has that reduced our anx­i­ety? Absolute­ly not! It’s almost the oppo­site of what con­ven­tion­al wis­dom might say: the more help­ful infor­ma­tion and aid­ing tech­nolo­gies we have, the more fear­ful and anx­ious we’re becom­ing! And with so many opin­ions at our fin­ger­tips, par­ent­ing only becomes a more daunt­ing and scary task.  Take, for instance, this quote from a recent arti­cle for The Ringer: 

Preg­nant wom­en can use Bel­ly Armor to shield their unborn babies from lap­top radi­a­tion. There is an array of belts meant to be strapped to bel­lies that play music. You can even per­form at-home ultra­sounds. Tech­nol­o­gy has trans­formed par­ent­ing from a home­spun or Dr. Spock–guided process into a data col­lec­tion ser­vice that rivals CIA prac­tices… The result is that mod­ern par­ent­ing, like all things tech-con­nect­ed, is becom­ing more para­noid by the day.

Anx­i­ety and par­ent­ing go hand in hand the­se days.

And yet God com­mands us, “Do not wor­ry,” “do not be anx­ious,” and “fear not.” The­se com­mands fly in the face of the cul­ture, but tell a com­plete sto­ry: at the heart of the par­ent needs to be a rock solid anchor of peace.

But how do we get there? What does this peace look like? And why does it seem that I can be doing so much, learn­ing so much and trust­ing so much, but still find noth­ing but anx­i­ety? The truth is that there are two com­po­nents of this God-given peace that need to be present in equal bal­ance in the heart of the par­ent — and they both need to fuel one anoth­er. When either piece falls out of bal­ance, we fall into anx­i­ety.

Let me state that again: if we are to have peace as par­ents, there are two com­po­nents that need equal weight in our hearts. Nei­ther one with­out the oth­er will provide safe peace. We need them both: a trust in God’s sov­er­eign­ty, and wis­dom.

Ulti­mate­ly, God’s sov­er­eign­ty is the source of peace — the unyield­ing real­i­ty that God is in con­trol of every moment, aspect and truth in this world. As has been said before, there is noth­ing that comes our way — or our children’s way — that has not first passed through the hands of our pow­er­ful and almighty God.

Philip­pi­ans 4:6 is the poster-verse for this con­cept: we don’t give into anx­i­ety or fear but we rather bring our requests, fears and con­cerns to God. And as we do, we’re given the “peace of God that will guard” our hearts and minds.

Our God is sov­er­eign over every moment, aspect and detail of your chil­dren and par­ent­ing. The influ­ences they’re receiv­ing, the food they’re eat­ing, the school­ing they’re get­ting — God is sov­er­eign over every part. That com­ment that they heard last week at school? God is sov­er­eign there too! This is a real­i­ty that guards our hearts and leads to peace.

But there’s a sec­ond com­po­nent we need  to cou­ple with that deep knowl­edge of God’s sov­er­eign­ty: wis­dom. It’s not enough to mere­ly know God’s sov­er­eign­ty, because trust with­out wis­dom is not blind and hon­or­able faith: it’s fool­ish­ness. Let me explain.

When we talk of wis­dom, the book of Proverbs jumps quick­ly to mind. In chap­ters 7–9, Wis­dom and Fol­ly are per­son­i­fied as wom­en, with Fol­ly active­ly try­ing to seduce a young man to come into her house as an adul­ter­er. She’s smooth, per­sua­sive and allur­ing.

Imag­ine if this man fol­lows Fol­ly, all the while think­ing, “This doesn’t seem like some­thing I should do… but God is sov­er­eign and I’m going to trust him to keep me safe.” Is he going to be kept on the right path? Is his life going to be hon­or­ing to God? Absolute­ly not. He’s a fool! He fool­ish­ly rest­ed in God’s sov­er­eign­ty with­out wis­dom.

And yet this is what we do often with our chil­dren: “This doesn’t seem wise, but God wouldn’t let any­thing bad hap­pen.” We choose to use God’s sov­er­eign­ty as an eraser for God’s wis­dom — but ignor­ing the clear marks of his wis­dom leads us into fool­ish­ness. That com­ment that our chil­dren did over­hear? Yes, God is sov­er­eign in that, but wis­dom might also dic­tate that if we con­tin­ue to hear the­se things or face the­se sit­u­a­tions, an inten­tion­al change might need to be made.

Peace is found in a bal­ance in our hearts between a rock-solid knowl­edge of God’s sov­er­eign­ty and a faith­ful pur­suit of wis­dom. When we over-empha­size one, or out­right ignore the oth­er, we fall into anx­i­ety or com­pla­cen­cy.

The only place to find this bal­ance is in healthy, life-giv­ing com­mu­ni­ty. Our ten­den­cy is always to under-empha­size one aspect over the oth­er. But, in com­mu­ni­ty, friends and fam­i­ly can call out our fool­ish­ness or our lack of trust and gra­cious­ly point our hearts back to the path that leads to peace. Eager­ly search for the­se com­mu­ni­ties, and talk to your friends about the­se two twin sources of peace.

Our hearts as par­ents need to be ground­ed in peace. And God will be faith­ful to lead us there, as we fol­low, trust and lis­ten to Him.

Prayer:

Heav­en­ly Father, I’m so in awe that you would promise peace. When I look around at this world — and espe­cial­ly when I con­sid­er my chil­dren being raised in such a world — it’s so easy for my heart to fall into fear and anx­i­ety. And yet you promise that I have a path to peace! Thank you!

God, I’m tempt­ed to either ignore wis­dom in my par­ent­ing or to for­get your faith­ful­ness and sov­er­eign­ty. Please help me to bal­ance both in my heart. Sur­round me with men and wom­en who will point my heart back to a bal­ance — who will help me to see life as it tru­ly is. Help me to make wise, well-informed deci­sion for my chil­dren, and then to faith­ful­ly trust that you will car­ry them. 

You’ve promised that what you began, you will be faith­ful to com­plete. You were the one who placed me on this par­ent­ing jour­ney, and I trust that you are faith­ful to bring it to com­ple­tion. 

Questions:

  • Are you more tempt­ed to under-empha­size God’s faith­ful­ness or wis­dom?
  • When were you most anx­ious in the last few months? Was that anx­i­ety more relat­ed to wis­dom or God’s faith­ful­ness?
  • How do you guard your heart again­st under-empha­siz­ing wis­dom or trust in your par­ent­ing jour­ney?
  • Who do you have around you who can call you out when you’re strug­gling in this bal­ance?

Extended Reading:

  • Proverbs 7–9: Read the account of the young man who needs to pur­sue wis­dom.
  • I Kings 10–11: King Solomon was the wis­est man in the land, and yet he unwise­ly sur­round­ed him­self with temp­ta­tions. They were his down­fall.
  • Matthew 6: Jesus speaks strong­ly of God’s sov­er­eign­ty in every sit­u­a­tion. But he strong­ly cau­tions again­st aban­don­ing wis­dom as well.
The Heart of the Parent: Anticipation

The Heart of the Parent: Anticipation

Antic­i­pa­tion sim­ply means wait­ing with con­fi­dence, or assur­ance. All par­ents antic­i­pate quite a lot from their kids: the tem­per tantrum that’s com­ing when you take away the TV, the eye roll asso­ci­at­ed with the plate of per­fect­ly cooked aspara­gus, and the sub­tle groan when cheer­ful­ly ask­ing, “So, do you have any home­work tonight?” In ways, our kids are quite pre­dictable!

But there’s a dif­fer­ent sort of antic­i­pa­tion that needs to live deep in the heart of the par­ent. This type of antic­i­pa­tion will cre­ate a faith-based pos­ture that will both inform how we pray, serve and lead our chil­dren as well as guard our hearts through the inevitable ups and downs of par­ent­ing.

We need to be antic­i­pat­ing God’s work and faith­ful­ness in the lives of our chil­dren.

We can approach par­ent­ing with two dif­fer­ent atti­tudes towards God’s involve­ment with our chil­dren: either we will hope and wish, weak­ly, for God’s pres­ence and faith­ful­ness, with­out con­fi­dence or assur­ance, or we will expect and wait patient­ly for God’s faith­ful­ness. Scrip­ture clear­ly says we should par­ent from the lat­ter.

The Psalms and writ­ings are spat­tered with vers­es encour­ag­ing us to antic­i­pate God’s action — to wait expec­tant­ly for it:

Mic­ah 7:7: But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my sal­va­tion; my God will hear me.

Psalm 37:7:  Be still before the Lord and wait patient­ly for him; fret not your­self over the one who pros­pers in his way, over the man who car­ries out evil devices!

Psalm 62:5: For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.

Psalm 130:5: I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope.

God is going to move and he is going to be faith­ful to the promis­es he has given his peo­ple in his own time and in his own way. The ques­tion for us to wrestle with is whether or not we antic­i­pate God’s faith­ful­ness and expect it for our chil­dren. If we do, this antic­i­pa­tion will bring two bless­ing to the heart of the par­ent: it pro­vides secu­ri­ty, and it will change how we act.

First, if our hope for our chil­dren is based only or pri­mar­i­ly on our abil­i­ty to dis­ci­ple them or to point them towards the Gospel and not on God’s over­whelm­ing faith­ful­ness, our heart will find no rest and will waver in fear and inse­cu­ri­ty. This heart atti­tude is eas­i­est to see when our chil­dren face tri­als or strug­gles. Dur­ing the dif­fi­cult moments, are you filled with fear and anx­i­ety? Are you wor­ried of your chil­dren falling away, or dis­play­ing false faith? It’s like­ly that you don’t antic­i­pate God’s faith­ful­ness! But, if you antic­i­pate God’s con­tin­u­al work in their life, you’ll approach chal­lenges, strug­gles and tri­als with con­fi­dence and peace.

Sec­ond­ly, though, if we are filled with the con­fi­dence in God’s action and involve­ment in the lives of our chil­dren, it will allow us to par­ent with open hands and eager action. It will fuel rad­i­cal prayers for our chil­dren, and we will face tri­als alongside our chil­dren with con­fi­dence. In antic­i­pa­tion of God’s work, we will even wise­ly encour­age our chil­dren into sit­u­a­tions where God’s work can be bold­ly seen in their lives. As our kids grow and look for ways to trust God and serve him, we won’t be cowed into fear or pas­siv­i­ty, but will glad­ly see them fol­low and leave for God. Instead of pas­sive­ly and fear­ful­ly watch­ing our chil­dren grow, we will look for ways to help them live out God’s faith­ful­ness.

A won­der­ful exam­ple of this expec­tant, antic­i­pa­to­ry par­ent­ing is Amram and Jochebed, the par­ents of Moses. God had promised the deliv­er­ance of his peo­ple, but the edict from Pharaoh in Exo­dus 1 was dev­as­tat­ing — all chil­dren boys of the Israelites were to be put to death.

When Jochebed gave birth to a boy, in defi­ance of the King’s orders, she hid him for three months. But then she and Amram were faced with a choice — how to best pro­tect their child? Hebrews 11:23 says that this deci­sion came down to faith — the over­whelm­ing faith of Amram and Jochebed that God would pre­serve and would pro­tect and would allow their child to flour­ish. They over­whelm­ing­ly antic­i­pat­ed God’s faith­ful­ness in the life of Moses — and they placed him in a bas­ket and float­ed him in the Nile.

Con­sid­er that moment for Jochebed as she bun­dled her pre­cious 3 mon­th old son and left him to float among the reeds. There was room for fear and anx­i­ety, but Hebrews is clear that this was a deci­sion made in con­fi­dence and bold­ness. Jochebed faced this almost impos­si­ble moment ful­ly antic­i­pat­ing that God’s faith­ful­ness would pro­tect her child — and she was right.

Antic­i­pat­ing God’s faith­ful­ness did not lead to pas­siv­i­ty or weak­ness, but rather to bold, rad­i­cal action on behalf of her child. Would that our atti­tude be the same.

Prayer

Father, thank you so much that you are forever faith­ful — your plans will nev­er fail. This is true for your grand cos­mic plans, and for the plans so impor­tant to me and close to home: your plans for the lives of my chil­dren. This is such an incred­i­ble promise — but it’s so easy for me to for­get or ignore. 

I con­fess that far too often, I par­ent or I approach prayer from a fear that your promis­es won’t come true, or that you won’t be faith­ful. I don’t antic­i­pate your faith­ful­ness in the way that I should, and so I find myself par­ent­ing from fear or wor­ry, rather than from con­fi­dence and hope. 

Fix my eyes on your son, Jesus. Remind me that he nev­er doubt­ed your faith­ful­ness, but always antic­i­pat­ed what was to come — even in the Gar­den, as he pre­pared to die, he antic­i­pat­ed your faith­ful­ness. Help me to par­ent in the same way — no mat­ter the tri­als, chal­lenges or dif­fi­cul­ties. You will be faith­ful. 

Questions for Growth:

  • What tri­als have you seen your chil­dren go through recent­ly? Dur­ing those moments, were your antic­i­pat­ing God’s faith­ful­ness, or fear­ful­ly fret­ting about their future?
  • Do you feel peace or anx­i­ety when you con­sid­er your children’s rela­tion­ship with God? What about their future?
  • How have you antic­i­pat­ed God’s faith­ful­ness towards your chil­dren?
  • Has true antic­i­pa­tion for God’s faith­ful­ness led you action and rad­i­cal liv­ing, or has it lulled you into pas­siv­i­ty? How can you change or grow as a par­ent in this are? Where might you have seen par­ents be lulled into pas­siv­i­ty in par­ent­ing their chil­dren?
  • Are your prayers for your chil­dren root­ed in the antic­i­pa­tion of God’s faith­ful­ness, or in fear of the unknown?
  • How could you prayer life for your chil­dren bet­ter reflect antic­i­pa­tion of God’s faith­ful­ness?

Reading for Further Study

  • Exo­dus 1–2: Put your­self in the shoes of Amram and Jochebed (Moses’ par­ents — not men­tioned by name). What emo­tions, fear or con­fi­dences did they have; what would you have?
  • Mic­ah 7: This is a dire chap­ter, but filled with hope and con­fi­dence as well. There’s fear and clear acknowl­edge­ment of wrong­do­ing, but a con­sis­tent hope in the faith­ful­ness of God.
  • Psalm 37: A resound­ing call from David to trust in our God.
The Heart of the Parent: Wonder

The Heart of the Parent: Wonder

Hard-hit­ting Chris­tian memes have become a favorite share on Face­book and social media, but one phrase has stuck with me: “Did you have a bad day, or did you have a bad 5 min­utes that you milked all day?”

It’s a good ques­tion! When we process through the days, the weeks and the years, which moments and expe­ri­ences are we allow­ing to define our think­ing? Our present atti­tudes will often be influ­enced by the per­cep­tion of our past — and that per­cep­tion is some­thing we have con­trol over.

One of the rea­sons par­ent­ing is dif­fi­cult is that we have so many mini-moments through­out the day that can become def­i­n­i­tion­al for us. Those 5 min­utes we can milk? We’re given quite a few options! Whether it was the tantrum over “this is the wrong break­fast cere­al!!” or the eye roll and huff when you remind your teen about morn­ing chores, or a bat­tle over bed­time, it’s easy to dwell on the­se moments that sap our joy, con­tent­ment and excite­ment.

We need won­der to live in our hearts as par­ents.

Won­der is a feel­ing of sur­prise and awe, caused by some­thing beau­ti­ful or mar­velous — it’s the very essence of star­ing at your new­born or hold­ing your adop­tive child for the first time. Won­der is being caught up in your one year-old tak­ing her first ten­ta­tive steps, or the joy of see­ing a smile for the first time on your infant.

Won­der isn’t con­fined to the ear­ly years of par­ent­ing, either — it’s found in talk­ing to your teen about the dif­fi­cult deci­sion they had to make at school, or wrestling through a life deci­sion and walk­ing away think­ing, “If I had an ounce of the courage he has…” It’s found in the audi­ences of high school bands and on the side­li­nes of soc­cer match­es and dur­ing par­ent-teacher con­fer­ences. Won­der is a per­va­sive piece of prop­er par­ent­ing.

And as Chris­tian par­ents, we’re given anoth­er ele­ment to won­der over as well: that God would choose to use us as instru­ments in the growth, dis­ci­ple­ship and life of our chil­dren. Psalm 139 speaks of the intri­ca­cies God puts into the cre­ation of his chil­dren but by impli­ca­tion, it also speaks of the val­ue God places on par­ents. As God lov­ing­ly stitched togeth­er each ele­ment of our children’s frame — as he con­sid­ered each piece of their lives — he also lov­ing­ly choose to place them with us and in our care.

Our children’s very pres­ence in our lives is a mir­a­cle of unfath­omable pro­por­tions — and that should lead to won­der.

And won­der should buoy our hearts.

It’s won­der, in part, that should define our atti­tudes and approach­es and days. It’s the won­der of our God and our chil­dren that should influ­ence our think­ing and our atti­tudes. As par­ents, we need to wear the won­der of our chil­dren and the won­der of the task to which God has called us as armor again­st the dis­ap­point­ments, frus­tra­tions and aggra­va­tions of day to day par­ent­ing. Far too often it’s the oppo­site — we allow the momen­tary frus­tra­tions to cloud and over­shad­ow our won­der. What if we reversed this trend?

My heart thinks imme­di­ate­ly to Mary (who per­haps had even more to won­der and mar­vel at than the aver­age par­ent). The tra­di­tion­al Christ­mas birth sto­ry is record­ed in Luke 2, and no less than three sep­a­rate times in this pas­sage — from the night of Christ’s brith through his 12th year — does it say, “Mary mar­veled” or “Mary stored up the­se things.”

Luke 2:19 speaks to a Mary who, after the shep­herds left on the night of Christ’s birth, stopped and spent time sim­ply mar­veling and record­ing to mem­o­ry the things that had hap­pened. Lat­er, dur­ing the baby Jesus’ cer­e­mo­ni­al pre­sen­ta­tion at the tem­ple, it says in verse 33, “The child’s father and moth­er mar­veled at what was said about him.” And then lat­er still, after find­ing the boy Jesus in the tem­ple, it says again of Mary that she, “trea­sured all the­se things in her heart.”

What a wealth of won­der Mary was cre­at­ing for her­self! I imag­ine there were many times, per­haps even dur­ing Jesus’ three year pub­lic min­istry, when Mary drew on the­se seeds of won­der to bring her mind back to the good work God was doing and had done.

We need to do that same. We need to be cul­ti­vat­ing and return­ing to a reg­u­lar sense of won­der and amaze­ment at our chil­dren, our call­ing and at God’s direc­tion. This will look dif­fer­ent for each par­ent and each par­ent­ing cir­cum­stance, but God has been faith­ful no mat­ter your cir­cum­stance. There are seeds of grace through­out each inter­ac­tion and sea­son of par­ent­ing.

As we con­sid­er the high call­ing God has given us, we should reg­u­lar­ly mar­vel at his mer­cy and prov­i­dence. Would that won­der define our hearts as par­ents!

Prayer

Father, you have given me an over­whelm­ing task in car­ing for, lov­ing and par­ent­ing the­se chil­dren, and I’m amazed at their beau­ty and life. But, there are so many times I feel beat­en down and exhaust­ed, and count­less oth­er times I’m tempt­ed to grade my par­ent­ing expe­ri­ences by the hard moments.

Help me not to do that, God. The role you’ve called me to is won­der­ful! It’s full of expe­ri­ences, moments and emo­tions that are just short of mag­i­cal. In fact, they’re mirac­u­lous — tru­ly only com­ing from you. And I need to see my role focused by the mirac­u­lous, again and again. Help me to look at my task of par­ent­ing through a dif­fer­ent lens — to not be caught up in the dif­fi­cult but rather lost in the won­der and beau­ty of my call­ing.

As I con­sid­er my heart as par­ent, allow me to be caught up in awe and won­der. Help my atti­tude and posi­tion to be char­ac­ter­ized by won­der. 

Questions

  • What’s the most won­der­ful mem­o­ry of your chil­dren you have? What mem­o­ry do you cher­ish the most?
  • How does pon­der­ing that mem­o­ry or that moment reframe how you think about par­ent­ing?
  • Would you say won­der char­ac­ter­izes your thought-life as a par­ent?
  • If you have to guess how often you won­der at your chil­dren, ver­sus how often you allow frus­tra­tion, anger or dis­ap­point­ment char­ac­ter­ize your thoughts, what would your answer be?
  • What are two or three ways you could bet­ter cul­ti­vate won­der towards your chil­dren?
  • How have you won­dered at the place and posi­tion God has given you in your children’s lives recent­ly?

Extended Readings

  • I Samuel 3: There’s some­thing tru­ly amaz­ing about the sto­ry of boy Samuel and God speak­ing to him and call­ing him. There’s a true won­der to it.
  • Luke 2: The birth sto­ry of Jesus. Pay close atten­tion to Mary’s atti­tude of won­der.
  • Exo­dus 14–15: There are few more incred­i­ble sto­ries in Scrip­ture than the part­ing of the Red Sea, but it’s accen­tu­at­ed by the song of praise Moses offers in chap­ter 15. There’s true won­der here: “You had led in your stead­fast love, the peo­ple whom you have redeemed; you have guid­ed them by your strength to your holy home.”

 

The Heart of the Parent: Courage

The Heart of the Parent: Courage

Description:

Rais­ing kids demands self-sac­ri­fice, bru­tal con­sis­ten­cy and a del­i­cate bal­ance between grace and truth. It’s an inten­tion­al process to “train up a child in the way he should go,” and it requires and inten­tion­al heart. Con­ver­sa­tions about a parent’s heart often cen­ter around con­vic­tion and con­science, but there’s anoth­er char­ac­ter­is­tic that also needs to be firm­ly embraced: Courage.

An easy def­i­n­i­tion of courage is “strength in the face of oppo­si­tion or grief.” In par­ent­ing, it refers to the con­vic­tion to point our chil­dren toward truth, with wis­dom, no mat­ter the appar­ent con­se­quences for them or for us. C.S. Lewis spoke of courage, say­ing, “Courage is not sim­ply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the test­ing point, which means at the point of high­est real­i­ty.” When we’re pushed — real­ly pushed as a par­ent — what is our respon­se? The met­tle of our courage is going to be test­ed.

TWO TYPES OF COURAGE

Let’s focus on two aspects of par­ent­ing that demand real courage at the test­ing point: the courage to tell the truth about the world, and the courage to con­tin­u­al­ly point our chil­dren toward the source of truth — God’s Word.

First, we need to teach our chil­dren to walk the dif­fi­cult line of grace and truth. Per­haps that’s sim­ple to do in the­o­ry, but at Lewis’ test­ing point, nei­ther truth nor grace are easy to teach as a par­ent, much less live out. That’s when we need courage.

We can teach our kids grace — that they need to love the unlove­able — but when they come home from school say­ing, “One of the girls today got in trou­ble for swear­ing at a teacher and nobody wants to be her friend because she’s so mean,” how will we teach our chil­dren to love her? Will we shy away from “love the unlove­able?” Or will we lean into a hard ten­sion? Like­wise, we can talk about and mod­el grace, but when our daugh­ter con­fides that two of the boys at school called her fat, how will we respond? Can we help her see her­self through the eyes of Christ — but also help her see those boys through the eyes of Christ? In fact, as par­ents, will we have the courage to see those boys through the eyes of Christ?

And teach­ing truth is just as hard. When our chil­dren start talk­ing about lifestyle choic­es their peers are mak­ing at school — even close friends whom they adore — we need the courage to say, “Yes, we love them — but that doesn’t mean their choic­es are right.” In an ‘ever-gray­ing’ world, one where absolute truth and moral right­eous­ness are increas­ing­ly being labeled as intol­er­ant and unlov­ing, how will we con­tin­ue to pro­claim Christ’s exclu­sive truth and call our chil­dren to it? What if our chil­dren choose to walk paths that Scrip­ture clear­ly pro­hibits? How will we respond? How much courage will we have?

Depend­ing on our stage of par­ent­ing, some of the­se exam­ples might seem dis­con­nect­ed or abstract. But there will always be ten­sions between grace and truth that we must nav­i­gate, no mat­ter our par­ent­ing stages. And there’s also anoth­er need for courage: the courage to return again and again to the same core truths and the same source of that truth — God’s Word.

Par­ent­ing if often a bat­tle of attri­tion — our kids seem to think that if they just ask one more time (and one more time again), the answer might change. Or, if they just poke or prod or hit or lie or try just one more time, the results might be dif­fer­ent. After a while, the temp­ta­tion for par­ents is to give in. It seems eas­ier to throw up our hands in frus­tra­tion or just walk away, but the parent’s heart must be filled with the courage to con­tin­ue to speak the truth — sit­u­a­tion in and sit­u­a­tion out — and to allow that truth to be sea­soned with Scrip­ture.

No mat­ter the cir­cum­stance — whether it’s time num­ber 1 or time num­ber 1,000 — we need to repeat­ed­ly point our chil­dren to Scrip­tural truths. And that takes courage.

PAUL’S EXAMPLE

Paul mod­eled both of the­se aspects of courage in II Tim­o­thy 3. While not his bio­log­i­cal father, Paul twice refers to Tim­o­thy as his “spir­i­tu­al son,” (I Tim­o­thy 1:2, I Cor 4:17), and speaks to him in a tru­ly parental way through­out his two let­ters. Near the end of II Tim­o­thy, start­ing in verse 10, Paul chal­lenges Tim­o­thy by say­ing:

You, how­ev­er, know all about my teach­ing, my way of life, my pur­pose, faith, patience, love, endurance, per­se­cu­tions, sufferings—what kinds of things hap­pened to me in Anti­och, Ico­ni­um and Lystra, the per­se­cu­tions I endured. Yet the Lord res­cued me from all of them. In fact, every­one who wants to live a god­ly life in Christ Jesus will be per­se­cut­ed, while evil­do­ers and impos­tors will go from bad to worse, deceiv­ing and being deceived.

But as for you, con­tin­ue in what you have learned and have become con­vinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infan­cy you have known the Holy Scrip­tures, which are able to make you wise for sal­va­tion through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scrip­ture is God-breathed and is use­ful for teach­ing, rebuk­ing, cor­rect­ing and train­ing in right­eous­ness, so that the ser­vant of God may be thor­ough­ly equipped for every good work.

What a pow­er­ful com­men­da­tion from a man who viewed Tim­o­thy as his very son. Con­sid­er the courage it took Paul to share both prongs of truth: per­se­cu­tion is com­ing for the right­eous, yes, but con­tin­ue to cling to the tried and true real­i­ty of Scrip­ture and God’s author­i­ty.

It’s easy in West­ern Chris­tian­i­ty to feel insu­lat­ed from what Paul need­ed to tell Tim­o­thy, but imag­ine sit­ting down with your 15 year-old son and look­ing him in the eyes, say­ing, “Son, fol­low­ing Christ is going to lead to your impris­on­ment, your beat­ing… you’re going to be ostra­cized and you’re going to suf­fer. And what’s more, you’re going to look around and see peo­ple who are doing things I’ve told you are wrong — and they’re going to be pros­per­ing. But that doesn’t change the fact that Jesus is worth it.”

And you go on, too: “And son, I know I’ve said this a mil­lion times. I know you’ve heard this and it seems old-hat — but lis­ten again. There is no source of truth like Scrip­ture. The Bible is entire­ly unique in its abil­i­ty to make you like Christ and you absolute­ly need it. Nev­er leave Scrip­ture.”

Both of those com­men­da­tions might seem for­eign or even weird. And in the abstract, nei­ther might seem all that hard. But there will come a time in our par­ent­ing jour­ney when our con­vic­tions as par­ents are pushed to the test­ing point, and in those moments it will take a cul­ti­vat­ed courage to par­ent well.

Prayer

Father, my heart wants noth­ing more than to raise my kids in the way you desire. But if I’m hon­est… I’m exhaust­ed. It’s been one long day after anoth­er, and I don’t know how many more times I can cor­rect my child’s bad behav­ior or give her the same answer.

As I think about my tired­ness, God, I’m remind­ed that you are the ever-coura­geous Father, who nev­er stops seek­ing to love me or call me to your grace and truth.  Your patience with me knows no bounds, and I don’t come close to deserv­ing your con­sis­ten­cy and your faith­ful­ness.

Help me to fix my eyes on you and your exam­ple of par­ent­ing. Give me the strength, as I con­sid­er your exam­ple, to par­ent coura­geous­ly. Help me to not tire of fol­low­ing you or giv­ing you my every­thing. As I read your Word and seek to fol­low you, cul­ti­vate a courage in me that will stand up to the fiercest of tri­als.

God, let me nev­er com­pro­mise my chil­dren because of exhaus­tion or ease. Always fill me with the courage to pro­claim your truth.

Questions

  • Where do you need more courage: pro­claim­ing grace and truth to your kids, or when it comes to point­ing them con­sis­tent­ly to Scrip­ture?
  • How has coura­geous par­ent­ing pos­i­tive­ly impact­ed you? How has a lack of coura­geous par­ent­ing neg­a­tive­ly impact­ed you? Where have you wished your par­ents would have been more coura­geous?
  • What’s the most coura­geous con­ver­sa­tion that you’re going to need to have with your chil­dren over the next year?
  • If you were hon­est, where is your “line of courage?” Where do you need to ask God to stretch you because, “If God asked me to do that or allow that or say that… I don’t know if I would be able to?”
  • In 5 years, when your kids are that much old­er, where do you feel you’re going to need courage as a par­ent?
  • Did you choose not to respond to some­thing that your son or daugh­ter said this past mon­th because you were afraid of how it might come across to the mod­ern cul­ture? Said anoth­er way: Have you been tempt­ed to shy away from con­ver­sa­tions because you were afraid of being accused as being intol­er­ant or unlov­ing?
  • What rebuke or cor­rec­tion have you given so many times over the past two weeks that you’re in dan­ger of let­ting the next offense slide because of sheer exhaus­tion?

Readings

  • Hebrews 11: The Hall of Faith is filled with exam­ples of coura­geous Chris­tians. As verse 12:1 com­mends us, their exam­ple should spur us on to greater faith and greater courage.
  • Nehemi­ah 1–2: Nehemi­ah was a man of unique courage who need­ed to make dif­fi­cult deci­sions. Con­sid­er his exam­ple.
  • Gen­e­sis 22: Read­ing Abraham’s sto­ry with his beloved son Issac should cause every par­ent to stop and wrestle with the impli­ca­tions.