Updated: Jan 31, 2020
We look forward to parenting when we browse through the baby aisle and dream about all the Pinterest-like moments we will have with our little mini-me. If you're a Type A person like I am, you probably made a birth plan, a feed/sleep schedule, a chore chart and mapped out your discipline approach all before your child's first birthday. But what is the point of parenting? What is our aim in raising arrows and training up children? We could say that the point is to create good, ethical, well educated people. We could say it's to make sure our children are respected Christians who stay out of trouble. We could say many things.
Watching my children go through pain and heartbreak has taught me a pivotal truth and that is this: That little human being with my nose and my proclivity to sin matters to God. Your little one with your traits and the same sin nature you have matters to God. It sounds like a no brainer but I needed this truth to sink into my soul and I firmly believe that when we keep it in the forefront of our minds, it shows up in our parenting.
It has been difficult for me to believe that my heart and everything in it matters to the Lord. A lot. If I go through the motions and obey Him with my lips when my heart is miles away, what am I doing? Not much of anything, really. Putting on my Church clothes and doing Christian-like things while my heart is smeared with evil means nothing. It is phony and prideful. When God slowly revealed that to me, I had a horrifying thought: Do I want to teach my children to be this way? Taking a good look at my kids with their raw hearts and anxiety-ridden eyes, I began to understand that my job as a parent is to reflect the heart God, - and God cares about the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).
As parents, it's easy to be the boss and who doesn't enjoy a good power trip? But is the purpose of raising kids to teach little people to submit to the bigger people? Is it to remind the younger that the older is always right? Is it to strut around our homes with some kind of God-complex barking orders to the insignificant ones we so graciously take care of? That sounds ridiculous but if we were to examine our hearts, what would we find? Would we find humility? Would we find grace? Do we show our children that we are in need God just as they are? Do we acknowledge our own mistakes and repent of our sin in front of them? Do we ask their forgiveness? Remembering that we are all stubborn little tattletalers, fearful little liars and rebellious little disobeyers goes a long way when we parent miniature versions of ourselves. When I look at my three kids who struggle with the same things I struggle with on a smaller level (for now), I want to reach the same thing God does - their hearts.
God is not after behavior modification, nor does He want a group of little robots who fall in line like some kind of spiritual VonTrapp family. No, God wants a relationship; an intimate, trusting, transparent, free relationship. He wants our minds to believe Him, our hearts to love Him and our eyes to seek Him and that can't happen if we view God as a tyrant or as someone who bullies or intimidates us into repentance. The same can be said of parenting. Do we want our children to obey out of fear or obey out of love? The answer depends a great deal on us as parents and whether or not we truly want to reflect God as we raise our children. Does God yell at us? Out-talk us? Manipulate us? Shame us? Avoid us? Not at all. Scripture says that the kindness of the Lord leads to repentance (Romans 2:4). When I discipline my children I don't want to provoke them to anger and drive a wedge between us, nor do I want to intentionally hurt their hearts. I want them to feel my love, to understand their sin and to see the pain (not anger) in my eyes and choose to obey not because I screamed loud enough or filled them with so much guilt that they had no choice but to submit. God's desire is for you and me to grow in His grace and we as parents ought to have the same desire for our children, pointing them to the goodness and to the unconditional, unrestrained love of the Lord.
May we strive to give our kids a little taste of heaven as we lead and care for them on earth.