Sometimes parenting can feel like a never-ending marathon. School, work, homework, sports, dance, feeding everyone, and checkups can feel like a runaway train. If we’re not careful years slip by without noticing. Every once in a while there comes a moment in time that cries out for us to stop and reflect. I recently had one of these moments when I walked one of my four daughters down the aisle. As joyful as the occasion was, I had to fight hard to hold back the tears. My relationship with my daughter was about to change as I put her into the arms of a man who promised to love her, provide for her, and walk with her through the rest of her journey through life. The reality that parenting is a lot shorter than you think was crashing into my world. Moses, the prophet who led the Israelites out of Egypt was keenly aware of this when he prayed, “Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.” Psalm 90:12 The truth is when we lose sight of the limited amount of time we will have with our children we fail to parent wisely.
As followers of Jesus, the sooner we understand and embrace God’s purpose for our parenting the more effective we’ll be in using that time.
I remember the feeling of disbelief I had when we were walking down the hall to bring our first child home from the hospital. All these people who seemed so competent were about to load this child in our car and send us off to raise him. Questions like, “Where’s the book?” and “How do you do this again?” ran through my mind. The reality is that it isn’t a hospital nurse entrusting our children to us, it is God. He’s the One who thought of each one of our children before they were born. He has entrusted them to us for a brief period of time.
So, what is the purpose of parenting? As Christian parents, what are we actually trying to accomplish? Have you noticed that there isn’t a parenting section in the Bible? I’ve looked. You won’t find it in the table of contents. Perhaps that’s because God doesn’t want the focus of our lives to be how we parent. In Deuteronomy 6:4-7 Moses writes, ”Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” God’s first priority for his people after He describes Himself as their only God, is that they love Him. Isn’t that what Jesus said is the greatest commandment? This is what we’re to be known for: the people who love God and show it by their lifestyle. Our parenting is to flow out of a whole-hearted commitment to God. Moses addressed it next when he wrote, “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” I believe Christian parenting also falls under the second greatest commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
So, this is how we’ve tried to live that out in our home:
Deedee and I have purposed to create in our home a community where the love of Christ is present. This begins with loving each other as Jesus loved us and purposing to believe the best about each other. It’s extending an unending amount of grace and forgiveness to each other and always disciplining in love. We’ve sought to make home a safe place where our children can find a refuge from the harsh world; this is reflected in what words, music, and media are allowed into our home. We purpose to eat dinner meals together to talk about the day, laugh, value each other’s input, and frame life in a biblical perspective. We worship together, root for each other, and seek to make home a welcoming and fun place where our children want to bring their friends. We’ve sought to be nosey parents who know where their children and their children’s friends are, spiritually. We made a tradition of having special birthday meals as a family for each member of the family. Toward the end of the meal, we each take a turn sharing what we love about that person. This has become even more precious to our kids as they have gotten older. We have sought to be intentional in helping our children walk through each new phase of their lives. Please know we have not parented perfectly, but have sought to point our children to the perfect Parent, their Heavenly Father, and encouraged them to put their trust in Him and His Word– to give their lives fully to Him.
Parents, I’m sure you’ve wondered at times if your “runaway train” will ever stop. I assure you it will. And when it does you may actually need to grieve. Let’s seek to make the most of the short amount of time God’s given us with our kids.
Here are three resources that have greatly impacted our approach to parenting:
- Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Dr. Tedd Tripp
- Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family by Paul David Tripp
- Ignite the Fire: Kindling a Passion for Christ in Your Kids by Barry and Carol St. Claire
One last thought. I’ve come to believe that life is a team sport. We’re not meant to live it alone. Even as parents we need a strong Christian community to lean on and encourage us in this incredible journey. That’s what we hope you’ll find here at Island Christian Church.
Let’s work together to live out the love of Jesus in our homes.
Pastor Lee Hamblen