God OUR Father
This realization revolutionized my parenting: My children are souls – just like me.
We don’t have a soul. We ARE a soul.
We are a mixture of emotions, thoughts, physicality, and spiritual awareness; and somehow in this jangled-up-mess, we are supposed to bring glory to the One who made us.
If I keep this spiritual reality in mind, I am more capable of maintaining a balanced perspective on parenting.
When this perspective is skewed, I am the worst version of myself. I become a drill-sergeant or a dodger. I bark commands and expect immediate obedience, or I let them make all the decisions and run-amuck while I mindlessly scroll social media and eat an entire pan of brownies. I forget they have sad days, tired days, silly days, and “off” days. I push my own agenda above anything else. I forget their values may be different than my values, and they are simply seeing Life from a different perspective. I fail to remember that although they are “made of” a combination of my husband and I, they are also “portioned” giftings and processes that I may not be aware of, simply because this is God’s mysterious work within all of His creations. I forget that I am not responsible for their salvation, their likes, dislikes, opinions, successes, or mistakes. They have strengths, limitations, and a distinct need to learn what they do not yet know simply because they are young.
When I remember that they are first of all souls, secondly God’s children, and lastly my own children, then I am not tempted to find my identity in how they perform or do not perform. I can recognize that they are human, just as I am, in need of the same vast expanse of grace afforded to me. I can recognize that they don’t know everything because they aren’t God, and by design they are learners. I can hold myself accountable for the fact that when we stand before God, they will be my brother/sister in Christ, not my inferior. We are equals in divine purpose: to be loved by God, to love God, and through this process of loving and being loved, we are using this “vapor” of Life to bring God glory. I can allow space for the story God is writing in their journey, in their life, without feeling as if I have to design, manage, or control any part of His sovereignty. I can accept them as they are, not as I would have them to be, and in this acceptance, God is glorified.
Does this absolve me of the responsibility of being the actual parent? Absolutely not! It does, however, allow me the framework with which to effectively parent what matters most: their soul. Our roles are different on this earth, but our paths are the same: glorifying Christ…till He takes us home. But nowhere does being the parent mean that I am superior or infallible. It is simply another way we see that “To whom much is given, much is required” (Lk. 12:48). The faster I can relinquish my need to see my children as measurements of myself, the quicker I will be able to steward my impact on their lives wisely, so we are all reaching towards the goal of allowing God’s purpose to unfold. It helps them to understand that they are responsible for their part: listening to advice and making wise choices. And it also allows me to talk openly with my children about how and why I parent the way I do. I can be honest with my desire to see them grow in their character and spiritual maturity, while also admitting that I know that I will mess up at times.
Reminding myself of these truths helps to develop the language surrounding how I view my own responsibilities and accountability to God, and allows me to undergo the process of embracing my own limitations and culpability before the Lord even as my children are watching. They can know that I am more concerned with their character and heart, not their performance alone. It helps me to discipline myself to remain more committed to my own values and consistency, and to admit my need of the Spirit’s guidance. There is no wiggle-room for hypocrisy or inconsistencies. And leading my children’s hearts towards God’s ways means that I must know His word and stand for His truths, especially when I must stand first and alone at times. My life must first tell the story of the goodness of God, so that my children understand that my soul has no hope by Christ. If I really believe this, then my life will show it, and they will see it before they hear it. And hopefully my life will show what I say I believe, so that I will not hinder them from seeing Christ. Honesty and grace must work hand-in-hand; mercy and truth must meet together to provide all that my child will need to fulfill God’s call on his life. And it all requires God’s help and my humility before the Lord and my children.
More than anything, I want my children to encounter God however He will reveal Himself to their hearts, and I want them to recognize Him when He shows up - in spite of me and my failings. I want Him to do the most good - the best good - for my children. I want Him to use their strengths and their weaknesses in ways that I cannot perceive or understand with my human mind, but in ways that will accomplish His sovereign plans. I want Him to be their Teacher, Friend, and Father. When I remember that this is what God has been for me in so many ways, I can trust God to make up the difference of what I cannot and should not do as their parent. It helps me to maintain a balance which will prevent me from over-glorifying or under-performing in my own role as a parent. I can fulfill my role under God's direction, while allowing God to do more than I could ever do for them - even on my best day. I can allow my heart to remain humble, dependent, and aware of God's movement in my children's lives, so that I am able to respond accordingly - as the parent, not as the "god" of my child's life. I can freely encourage my child to "fan into flame the gracious gift of God" which is in them, so they can glorify the Lord in the way that He sees fit (2 Tim. 1:6). And I grow in trusting God to be all of who He has promised to be for me and my children.