Tuesday, November 2, 2010

parenting

by David Howie

Parenting is hard.

That statement is no big shock. Nothing is easy when you’re sleeping less with more interruptions. And that’s on a good night – not to mention the teething, coughs, colds, and more serious illnesses. Then they grow up and start talking. Talking back. Why is “NO!” the first word kids learn? They are also extremely curious, but exploring usually means making a mess and breaking things. And I haven’t even gotten to the stages where they’ll start school, have hurt feelings from a friend, learn to drive, begin to date, and wrestle with what to do after school. Each stage brings new and additional challenges.

So what is my overall goal in parenting? Survival is the first word that comes to mind. That is important, but we obviously have to go further than that.

Success is the second word that comes to mind. I want my kids to go to the right schools, do well in school, get good grades, get a good education. I want my kids to be involved in lots of activities, have fun, find their niche, make lots of friends, be popular, be happy. I want my kids to make lots of money, be famous, win, achieve. These are good things, but as a Christian I have to say that they are not enough either. There has to be more to life than education or money or even friends because life will end and then what happens to all that stuff?

So the church answer would be that I want my kids to be good, stay out of trouble, be obedient, go to church, be active in youth group, pray, read their Bibles. These are great things, but I still think they are not enough. None of these things mean a person is saved. What I really want for my children, more than anything, is for them to be saved from their sins and to spend eternity with God. There are many examples in the Bible of very spiritual people who lived upright lives but were shown to be far from God (King Saul, Isaiah 58, Apostle Paul, all the Pharisees, Matthew 7:21-23). That is a scary thing.

The real answer lies with the heart. I want my children to be known by God. I want them to know Him and to love Him. The true purpose in parenting, and in all of life, is to glorify God. Of course this will lead to reading God’s Word, praying to Him, fellowshipping with His people, and obeying His commands, but not out of duty or compulsion but out of love for Him and desiring His glory.

And whether my children (or myself) are winners or losers, famous or forgotten, rich or poor, have friends or alone, well educated or not doesn’t matter as much. The important question is ‘does my life glorify God?’. How have they (and I) used the talents, gifts, abilities, and time that God has given to them not for themselves but for His kingdom?

It is easy for me to give assent to these ideas. I believe them, but how is it lived out in my life? What priorities do my actions point to? What makes me the most angry? Is it when my toddler is trying to feed herself and spills her yogurt all over the table, her clothes, and the floor or is it when she is selfish and unkind? Where do I spend most of my time? Is it teaching my son how to swing a baseball bat or teaching him how to respond to a tough situation in a Godly manner? What do I get most excited about? Good grades or diligent work? Receiving gifts or being generous? These are hard questions to answer, in part because they are so hard to measure. It’s easy to see improvement in grades or athletics but much harder to measure increased kindness or self-control. I think it’s also a lack of focus. I need to reorient my own priorities so that I can teach my children the right way. And it has to be done day by day over long periods of time (Deut 6:7). I said that parenting is hard, but I am wholly inadequate for this. Thank God that He is the perfect Father and He is in control.

1 comment:

The Niemeyer Nest said...

That's food for thought! David makes a good point with time. I spend so much time with Evie but what is the most important thing that I can teach her. Great post!!!