Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Parenting is Hard

A few weeks ago at church, an elderly gentleman visiting from the States was our guest preacher. He has been a child psychiatrist for decades and has 5 kids of his own. Given his background, I was hopeful that his message about parenting would be full of wisdom and encouragement. The two main points were, "Parenting isn't hard," and "The goal is not to give your kids a happy childhood. It's to raise them to be good people."

I wanted to throw things at him.

His reasoning was that God has made it abundantly clear in scripture how we should raise our children, so if we just do what the Bible says they'll turn out fine. It reduces the Bible to a guidebook, and parents to people who either follow the guidelines or not. If your kids don't turn out well in this reasoning, you have no one to blame but yourself. This reasoning doesn't account for the fact that we are sinners raising sinners in a fallen world, with an enemy focused on our demise. This reasoning is both naive and discouraging. If I pretend these realities don't exist, I will berate myself when I find that parenting isn't easy. Now I'm not denying the other great reality which is that God is on our side, and He will fight for us. But I don't think it does us any good to minimize the truth of the battle. Parenting is hard. It's crazy hard. It's "what have I gotten myself into?" kind of hard. Even with God on my side. I can't imagine doing it without Him.

And then there's his second point. Now I agree that the goal is not to give our kids a happy childhood. But my goal is far beyond making my kids "good people." As Ravi Zacharias said, "Christianity is not about making bad people good. It's about making dead things alive." I have come to believe that the greatest thing I do for my kids is not to teach them rules for living, but to show them how desperately we all need Jesus, and how abundant is His salvation for our need.

Doing that means we have days like today when it's hard. Hard with a capital H. Days when our sin natures clash like in some epic battle, swords clanging, over things as seemingly trivial as Latin homework and piano practice. I could be discouraged and wonder, "Why is this so hard? What am I doing wrong?" Or I could remind myself that this is where we learn. This is when we grow. This is where we recognize that we sin, and we confess, and we receive forgiveness from Him and each other. This is when we have the opportunity to become not good people but dependent people, who are not learning a list of rules but learning how to live by the Spirit.


laura said...

oh this so resonates with me... our "church" (small group of four young families) just finished the opposite - a 90 minute dan allender talk on parenting that was amazing. we split it into two weeks and it was life-giving! and sounded a bit like your post.... life through death, parenting is a means of death, and finding life - for us and our kids.

would love to live nearby and get to visit with you about this topic, and a hundred other things too :)

Gina Marie said...

I'm such a huge Dan Allender fan - in fact I'm listening to him right now! Have you read Sacred Parenting by Gary Thomas? I love that book too.

And ditto on your last thought - I would love to near you and enjoy your friendship more regularly!

Melanie said...

I would just like to say, "amen" and "amen" to this post. Parenting is crazy hard but so worthwhile. And I love that you distinguish between raising "good" kids and raising them to know, love and follow Jesus. I always tell people I am not trying to raise a good, well behaved 2 year old (which is good because my kids really are not very well behaved) I am trying to raise a godly man and woman. With only a few weeks left until Jake graduates from high school I am proud to say that while he might not be perfect he has a solid relationship with the Lord. And with that foundation I know whatever happens next he will be in good hands.