Anyway, I alluded to this quote at a baby shower on Saturday, but I think the whole thing is worth sharing (in fact, the whole article is great). It's from an article in the November/December 2005 Modern Reformation; yes, it's a little old, but I've been flipping through old stacks of them and this article caught my eye (marriage, let alone parenthood, was yet a twinkle in my eye when I got this in my mailbox).
When the apostle says that God has been a Father to us since before the creation of the world, Paul directly reinforces the security we must have to be effective Christian parents (Eph. 1:4-5). Our greatest failings as parents typically result from our insecurities. I recognize this in myself when I confess what usually upsets me most with my children. What makes me angriest? Too often it is what my children do that embarrasses me or makes me look bad. In such moments I find that I can easily discipline out of my concern for me rather than out of a primary concern for my children's welfare. At its root such selfish discipline is a far of the rejection of people outside my family. Buried beneath my anger is the fear that others will not think as highly of me as I desire - that I will be relegated to the sidelines of their acceptance or respect.
Conversely, I recognize it is often difficult for my wife (and for many other women) to discipline because of the fear that a child will be upset with her or reject her. Fear of a child's getting angry, turning a cold shoulder, or spurning a mother's love has stifled many a mom's discipline - and stirred many a child's rebellion.
Of course these are not gender-specific traits. There are plenty of fathers who will not discipline for fear of a child's rejection and many mothers who serve their own egos through managing the performance of their children. My point is not that both mothers and fathers have flaws but that insecurity can affect the behavior of us all. If we are more concerned about how people outside the family view us, we tend to overreact in discipline. If we are more concerned about how those within the family view us, we tend to underreact in discipline.
The sum of these truths is that anxious parents do not make good parents. So the Bible deals with the source of our anxieties by assuring Christian parents that God dearly loves us and has so loved us since before the creation of the world. Once this assurance takes deep root in a mother's or father's heart, it helps minimize the concern for protecting self that can be the hidden but driving motive behind our parenting decisions. Our security in our relationship with God frees us to parent for our children's good rather than our own - giving to them our security rather than taking it from them (see Eph. 5:2).
Bryan Chapell, "The Promise-Driven Family" in Modern Reformation, November/December 2005. The article is an excerpt from his book Each for the Other (Baker, 1998).
Molly, thanks for this. Even though I am not a parent, the issue of making decisions out of fear rather than resting in God's love still confronts me every day! Great reminder of where to hang one's hat!
Laura, you are so right! I'm convinced that finding our identity in something other than Christ is at the root of a lot of our issues. Not that being aware of that makes me any better at avoiding those pitfalls!
God is not calling us to perfect parenting. He calls us to FAITHFUL parenting (and marriages). It changes the whole equation.
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