A few weeks ago women and friends from City Church gathered for a parenting workshop with Janet Carter, a Certified Parenting Coach, regular City Church attendee, and mother to four grown children. As with so many things in life, parenting is often a task that can be described in lofty, glowing ways, but the reality of messy people, lack of patience, and a general sense of failure can stand in the way of those glowing descriptions.
The wisdom and insight that Janet shared with us was refreshing because she gracefully navigated the dichotomy of the honor and gift to be a parent with the challenge and struggle that it presents. Two of the most helpful things that Janet talked about were not about tips to get your children to obey or the five steps to harmony in your family, but rather the Biblical framework that God provides.
When we consider Jesus’s life there is so much that we learn about living in relationship with others around us. When we think about Jesus calling his disciples we can see principles that show us how to love are care for others, even as parents. As Janet has reminded me many times about Jesus, “So powerful was his presence, so confident was his authority and so overwhelming was his love, that his disciples did follow him.” Applying that to parenting is a simple and yet profound lesson—all three of these dynamics are working together. And when one is lacking our parenting and relating can be out of whack.
1. Powerful presence
Being present with others is an amazing gift. Sometimes the greatest gift that we can give in any relationship—whether as friends, parents, family members, spouses—is the gift of our presence and a willingness to simply be who we are. Children don’t want a perfect parent, they want a present parent. They want you, just as you are.
2. Confident authority
Parenting is often a task that is filled with anxiety and fraught with fear. God has designed families in such a way that parents are the authority. Be confident that you are the authority that your child has and needs. You will not parent perfectly but parent as if you are leading and directing with the God-given responsibility that you have.
3. Overwhelming love
Without love, presence can become hovering. Without love, authority can become tyranny. With love there is relationship—there is room for failure, repentance, restoration. With love, parenting is about caring for a little person made in God’s image.
In the first pages of the Bible, God creates all things and sets the pattern for how the world works best and how mankind engages with God. God speaks to Adam and Eve as a loving father giving them insight into how to live in this amazing world that God has given them. There are three principles that we find in Genesis 1-3 that enlighten us as we think about our own parenting.
1. God defines reality
God creates all things—plants, animals, and people. God makes the world and defines reality in it. He is the one who has designed it and so he knows how things ought to work best. God gives his creation freedom but he also gives them a rule to follow (i.e. Do not eat from that tree).
2. God let’s Adam and Eve make their bad choices
God doesn’t constantly interfere or intervene to remind Adam and Eve about the rule. He doesn’t nag or over-remind or give them endless chances to make the right choice. Instead he allows them to choose.
3. God allows mankind to experience the consequences of their choices
Adam and Eve eat from the tree that God told them not to eat from and he lets the consequences of that choice bear out. God never stops loving them and he is gracious towards them in their consequences, yet they are faced with the reality of their choices.
These big ideas have helped provide touch points when raising children feels overwhelming and when I feel like I am failing as a mother. But these ideas have also reminded me to look for the ways God has made the world to work best. I’ve been reminded that all of my relationships require my powerful presence, my confident authority, and my overwhelming love. No matter the circumstances of my life and relationships, God asks me to trust him and live in the beautiful reality he has made.