(This is a picture of my baby daughter, Lucy, who was born this past Friday – such a sweetheart! I thought that given her birth and Father’s Day, it was only fitting that I post a little something about parenting.)
14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being.
I suppose there is no more frightening aspect of parenthood than the lack of a solid manual, or at least some mandatory test for eligibility. You would think that for a role so important such things would be required, but nope – you have a baby and are confronted by the stark fact that you don’t have the foggiest idea how to raise this child. You can try to recollect the manner in which you were raised, but that might be more harmful than helpful, depending on your parents’ skill or the selectivity of your own memory. You can turn to Dr. Sears’ mammoth volume, the closest thing we have to a manual for child-rearing, but frankly, some of his methods kind of freak me out.
So it would seem that we have no ideal model to follow when it comes to parenting. But that’s really not at all true – we have the example of our God.
The verse above from Ephesians 3 tells us that all earthly families derive their name and purpose from our heavenly Father, and that it is out of that richness that we our strengthened in turn. This means that earthly families are not independent or self contained, but are based completely on the way that God parents us. If we want a perfect model of what it means to be a good earthly parent, then we need look no further than the way that our good Heavenly Father parents us: with infinite love and patience, a heart that forgives not just once, but 70 x 7 times. He does not let us do whatever we will, but bends our lives to follow His greater wisdom and purposes. These are the ways in which God cares for us, and so, are the ways in which we should care for our children in turn.
But all of this hinges on an important principle, that if we do not personally know the manner and depth of God’s love for us, we will be at a complete and utter loss as to how to love our families. If we are disconnected from God, we are disconnected from the very source of parenting itself. And this exposes one of the most destructive mistakes we make as parents, where we think of developing our relationship with God as an extracurricular of some kind, only to be indulged in after we have completed all of our truly necessary duties as parents: cooking, cleaning, driving, diapering. But this is totally wrong minded, for our relationship with God is not an extracurricular to ou role as parents, but a prerequisite; not optional, but absolutely mandatory. To be the best parents we can be, we must place high priority on strengthening our relationship with God.
After all – when we know how much we are loved, it is so easy to be loving to others in turn.