Parenting in a Gospel Age
It is approximately 9 times out of 10 that I feel like an absolute failure in parenting. There is the random chance, which is of course joined by the stars being in perfect alignment and a pig boarding a 747, that I will feel like an adequate parent, thus it amounting to only 10% of the time.
I’m a father to two boys with another boy on the way. My life is full of rowdiness, dangling male anatomy, and it’s topped off with fart jokes galore. Not only are they rowdy but they’re beautiful, intelligent, and winsome human beings. Even though they’re sometimes functional mini-human beings, it still doesn’t mean that I don’t often dream of an alternate reality in which we would have just bought another dog rather than to occupy our life and time with kids. Also, I know some of you who read this will do one of three things: (1) be appalled that I could wish away time with my family, (2) agree whole-heartedly with me, (3) or have no idea what I’m talking about because you did buy another pet.
Attempting to raise toddling cage fighters has been my biggest challenge, and is always the thing that occupies my greatest shame. If you’re a parent, you’ll agree with the following:
It’s easier to work/Facebook/Pinterest/read the news than it is to be present with your children
It’s harder to be a better parent to your kids than the parenting you received (I think of this more as a generational sin)
There will always be someone who we’re 100% confident that they could love our children more than we could, and vice versa
Parenting, for many, equals defeat. There are more distraught empty-nesters than we could dare to shake a stick at. These are mothers and fathers and guardians who are riddled with regret, longing for do-overs, and hoping they’ll get grandkids again so they could do everything right this go around. It is in following Jesus and in the power of the gospel that we have any hope in this thing at all.
Here’s what the gospel reminds me about my parenting:
My children belong to the Lord before they ever belong to me // My kids love the first Q&A of the Heidelberg Catechism which asks, “What is our only hope in life and death?” To which we’ve taught them a short answer, “That we are not our own but we belong to Jesus.” It is in this promise that I am reminded that I will most certainly ruin my kids, and most other people I come into contact, and that’s okay. I will never be too big a failure, or my kids too far gone, for them to escape the love of Jesus.
A spiritual legacy is the best kind of legacy // I believe this to be true of every parent: we want to leave our children with something. I’m a pastor so I know the chances of a gaudy inheritance isn’t very likely, but what I can leave them is a memory of my infectious love for Jesus, my mercy and grace with others, and first-hand encounters of them seeing everyday folk being discipled as they walk through the threshold of their home. I can pray for them endlessly, encourage them as they follow Jesus, and live in a Godly grey area that doesn’t leave legalism as an option. I can live a life where my life and doctrine match closely, and give them something worth imitating.
We need to be distance runners in a sprint world // I once heard the story of a man who got filed divorce papers because it took him over 20 years to finish their dream home. I believe the man defended himself with, “she never asked how long it was going to take.” If I’m not in this for the long haul, then I’m doomed for failure every time. There will be inevitable seasons where I will wish to disown my children and they will likely already have disowned me, or worse, planned to put me in a retirement home in my 50’s. Whatever seasons come, I will never stray away from being their father. I think about this in terms of my own sonship with the Father: I’ve tried to disown Him a thousand times, and I’m sure He’s given me a couple of celestial face palms along the way, but He’s never ceased from being my Father. He was / is / and will be with me through this in the long run.
There’s grace to be found for weary parents especially where the love of Jesus is rampant and we live in an age of where the gospel is flourishing. Here’s my hope out of that last part of the sentence: the rule and reign of Jesus will never not flourish. Here’s to you and yours as you figure out this whole parenting thing. Cheers. /bm