Whenever I talk about parenting I feel a little bit like how Charlie Shedd describes himself in his book, Promises to Peter. Shedd tells how the title of his messages on parenting changed with his own experience of fatherhood. In his early years as a preacher before he was a father he entitled his message, “How to Raise Your Children.” People came in droves to hear it. Then he had a child of his own, and it was a while before he gave that message again. When he did, he gave it a new name: “Some Suggestions to Parents.” Then he had two more children, and a number of years later he called it, “Feeble Hints to Fellow Strugglers.” Several years and children later, he seldom gave that talk, but when he did his title was, “Anyone got a Few Words of Wisdom?”
I can relate! As time has passed and my own kids have grown up I feel in many ways like I have less and less to say about parenting. Because of that, I give parenting advice with a certain amount of fear and trepidation. The Bible has a lot to say about parenting. Without embarrassment, it offers us some very pointed and specific wisdom on how to raise our kids. But, having been at this business of raising kids for a while, I know how difficult it can be to really do these things, and I’m very aware of areas in which I’ve failed to live up to these standards.
For this reason we should approach what the Bible says about parenting in the larger context of what we know about the gospel of Jesus Christ and specifically the grace of God. Before we DO anything as parents we need to know something of God’s grace at the core of our being. We need to know He loves us unconditionally; he’s not keeping score of our performance. We need to know that we’re very much in process as people, and that we need God’s love and grace every day of our lives.
If grace is not at the very core of our lives as individuals, then we’ll not be able to parent with grace; we won’t be able to parent without our issues getting in the way. Our relationship with our kids will be tainted with our own insecurities. We’ll place them on the performance treadmill we ourselves are on. We’ll look to them to fill the holes in our lives that only God can fill. Everything the Bible says presupposes a relationship with your kids that is rooted in grace and unconditional love. It presupposes an authenticity that flows from grace where you can laugh together and cry together and forgive together.
Part of this foundation of grace means that we recognize that we need God’s grace in our parenting. There is a pervasive lie floating around the Christian community that places all the responsibility for what our kids become on the shoulders of the parent. Often, a verse from Proverbs is used to support this myth. “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” We take that as a blanket promise that if we just train our kids right they will turn out to be model Christians. But, Proverbs were never intended to be blanket promises. They were intended to be general statements of what happens most of the time. The fact is, we can’t do anything to guarantee the outcome of our child’s life.
Depending on how you look at it, that’s either very good news or very bad news. The bad news is that you can’t do anything that will absolutely determine the outcome of your child’s life. The good news is you can’t do anything that will absolutely determine the outcome of your child’s life. Do you catch my drift? If you’re a parent in need of grace, this is very good news. It frees us up as parents to know that everything does NOT depend upon us. That’s the law. But we don’t live under the law, we live under grace. As parents who’ve experienced the grace of God in our own lives, we’re free to live with the expectation that He’ll act in grace in our children’s lives as well! That’s very good news because none of us feel we have it all together; none of us want it all to depend on us.
With that foundation of grace intact, it’s true that God has entrusted parents with a tremendous responsibility. And He offers us some very helpful instruction on how to be effective parents. I will talk about that in an upcoming post.