Monday, May 7, 2012

Parenting: In for the Long Haul

This past week provided some great reminders to me about the long-term nature of parenting. Like anything else in life, there are good parenting days and there are bad ones. There are days when the kids are polite and responsible; on those days you feel like a successful parent. There are also days when the kids are rude and whiny; on those days you feel like a failure. After some days that made me feel like I had this parenting thing down, I experienced some days that made me feel like my kids were a lost cause (slight exaggeration).
It's hard not to overreact when it comes to parenting. We love to post videos and photos and updates of our kids finest moments, whether they be academic or athletic or social. And when our kids fail in any of those areas, it is hard not to despair and worry about their future. We react strongly to the ups and downs of our children for at least two key reasons. The positive reason is that we love our kids and we care deeply about how they will turn out. The negative reason is that we find much of our identity in being "good" and "successful" parents. When our kids behave poorly we feel that identity being threatened.
As is true of all areas of our development, our example is God. He is the ultimate parent. Within the doctrine of God, we see Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And God the Father is not only the Father to the Son, Jesus Christ, but also to all who have embraced Jesus. Like us, God is deeply concerned about how his children will turn out. Unlike us, he does not feel his identity being threatened when we behave poorly. He knows who he is.
When I think of what it means to follow God's example in parenting, one concept has stood out to me: God parents his children with their long-term good in mind.
Hebrews 12 speaks profoundly of God's parenting approach. Verses 10 and 11 bring out God's long-term perspective: "They [our human fathers] disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines  us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it."
Key points:
1. God disciplines us for our good. He doesn't just discipline us in a way that he hopes will improve us. He knows how to discipline us for our good.
2. God's discipline bears fruit if we are trained by it. It is not just so that he looks good as a parent. It is not just so that he can reinforce the fact that he is in charge. He disciplines us in a way that brings us closer to the joy of sharing in his holiness. . .if we respond rightly.
We can't control how our kids respond to us. Our kids will bring us moments of overwhelming joy and they will bring us moments of overwhelming pain. We must have a long-term view in mind; otherwise we will be exhausted from the emotional highs and lows.

We must discipline our children with patience and perspective. We must persevere in directing them away from enslaving self-love and toward life-giving love for the Triune God. Parenting is a long-term project. We can't do it well without God's power flowing through us. But when we are led by him, and when we adopt his long-term perspective, we can experience peace and guidance through the high calling of parenting.

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