How Christians Parent
This past Sunday in church we looked at whether Scripture could give us any guidance when it came to parenting our children. I for one need guidance when it comes to being a parent. I have felt unprepared and overwhelmed by the task from day one. And in Paul Tripp’s book Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles that Can Radically Change Your Family we found direction, conviction, and prompting from Scripture.
The 14 principles are
- Calling: Nothing is more important to your life than being one of God’s tools to form a human soul.
- Grace: God never calls you to a task without giving you what you need to do it. He never sends you without going with you.
- Law: Your children need God’s law, but you cannot ask the law to do what only grace can accomplish.
- Inability: Recognizing what you are unable to do is essential to good parenting.
- Identity: If you are not resting as a parent in your identity in Christ, you will look for identity in your children.
- Process: You must be committed as a parent to long-view parenting because change is a process and not an event.
- Lost: As a parent you’re not dealing just with bad behavior, but a condition that causes bad behavior.
- Authority: One of the foundational heart issues in the life of every child is authority. Teaching and modeling the protective beauty of authority is one of the foundations of good parenting.
- Foolishness: The foolishness inside your children is more dangerous than the temptation outside of them. Only God’s grace hands the power to rescue fools.
- Character: Not all of the wrong your children do is a direct rebellion to authority; much of the wrong is the result of a lack of character.
- False Gods: You are parenting a worshiper, so it’s important to remember that what rules your child’s heart will control his behavior.
- Control: The goal of parenting is not control of behavior, but rather heart and life change.
- Rest: It is only rest in God’s presence and grace that will make you a joyful and patient parent.
- Mercy: No parent gives mercy better than one who is convinced that he desperately needs it himself.
If we could reduce the 14 principles to one main point I’d say it was this: so often as parents we think our main task is regulating behavior. However our main task should be to cultivate love of God and neighbor. At many points in the sermon we talked about how in regulating behavior we are merely dealing with the presenting symptoms. But if we look at the Gospel, if we look at Scripture we recognize that the root issue in all of us is the spiritual issue of sin that can only be overcome by grace. As parents, we are called to show God’s grace to our children and lead them into salvation and transformation in Jesus.
I admit and confess my own failings in this task. I admit and confess my own preoccupation with regulating, modifying, and changing behavior. I admit and confess that I have used fear, shame, and coercion in attempting to produce a child who exhibits perfect behavior. I admit and confess that I have lost my patience, lost my temper, and reached my limit in dealing with my child. I admit and confess my inability to put into practice the principles about which I preached.
Here’s the thing about confession though: it is when we confess our failings that the grace of God can go to work on us. Tripp’s book is an amazing book. It instructs, it builds you up, and it convicts. It charts a course for where we should want to go as parents. And it reveals that we have a little ways to go before we get there. But in the moments I felt convicted as a parent and a disciple, I also felt God’s grace tell me it’s ok. I’m not a perfect parent. It’s ok. I’m not always as patient as I need to be. It’s ok. I focus on behavior more than soul. It’s ok. God is at work. God is moving. God will use me and work with me. God will work in spite of me. And God will get me and my sons where we need to be.
Parenting is hard. It’s the hardest and most rewarding thing I’ll ever attempt to do. It’s the hardest and most rewarding thing you’ll ever attempt to do. There will be moments where we succeed beyond our wildest dreams. There will be moments when we know we have failed. For all of the moments, our God is with us. God’s grace goes before and after us. God covers us.
God loves you beyond measure. As a parent and as His child. God loves your children beyond measure. God will use you, God will work through you, and God will work in spite of you to shower love and grace upon you and your children. Have grace for yourself. Have patience with yourself. Accept moments of conviction and correction as ways God moves us little by little to become more and more the people God created us to be. And in moments when parenting seems a task too great, remember in your life and in your children’s lives to be still and know that He is God.