Parenting is hard. Can someone give me an “Amen!” Yes, it is amazing. Yes, it is beautiful. But, yes, it is extremely difficult.
Make no mistake…I love the church for being a community for me during my adolescent years. And now during my parenting years.
At the same time, however, the church must realize there are some areas of parenting where we might be doing more to hinder than help. I speak into these areas as a youth minister. A college minister. A lifelong churchgoer. And a man who has devoted his life to the local church.
I love the church with all of my heart. And from that heart comes the following 7 truths about parenting Christians need to grasp.
Let’s get moving.
1.) Children will not fix a marriage…and marriage will not fix children.
Using children to fix your marriage is dangerous. If your marriage sucks, let me challenge you to work on your relationship before you consider children.
Here’s the deal…using your children to mask the brokenness of your marriage is doing a huge disservice to your marriage. And doing a huge disservice to your children.
I also need to speak to something else while I am here. Please here me out.
Everyday, teenagers and young adults are getting pregnant outside of marriage. Yes, this is tragic. But it is even more tragic to conclude the next step is marriage.
The church needs to do some repenting in this area. We have reacted…out of fear…with a selfish attitude. Parents and ministers have encouraged people to marry if they get pregnant simply because they are scared of the reaction. “If we can just get them married, maybe no one will know what happened.”
So, a child is going to enter this world unplanned…and we are going to double down on the problem by rushing two people into the divine relationship of marriage? Church, we must stop reacting. Take a step back. Let the emotions settle.
Let us be prayerful and consider what is in front of us. What is best for the relationship, and what is best for the child don’t have to be mutually exclusive…but sometimes they are.
2.) Some seasons aren’t meant to be savored…just endure them.
There are seasons in parenting that can’t be savored. When I woke up with my boys three times in one night, there was nothing to savor. I just wanted to get through the next day without falling asleep at the wheel. Or punching someone. Just playing. Kind of.
There are certain tasks that are hard. And it is OK to do them and move on…without savoring anything. Ever changed a blowout diaper? Or traveled five hours with two babies? Hard to cherish any moment there.
That’s OK. You can do a task and move on. There will be moments to cherish. Just continue the journey.
3.) Your job is not to protect your children from pain, but to be present through it.
I still remember the time my girlfriend broke up with me in high school. Talk about a whirlwind of instability. I threw more household items than we had household items. Chew on that for a second. My parents did everything to console me. But it didn’t work.
Now that I am a parent, I catch a glimpse of what my parents experienced. They saw me hurting. And they hurt.
We live in a broken world. With broken people. Eventually the brokenness will impact your child.
And God knows this. As much as I love my boys, God loves them infinitely more. And God doesn’t want to keep them from pain. He doesn’t promise to shield us from storms.
But God promises to be present through them. He promises never to leave us or forsake us. And this your goal as a parent. Never leave. Never forsake. No matter the difficulty. No matter the situation. Be there. Always.
4.) It is possible to raise respectful, successful children without God.
“How is this relevant to the discussion, Frank?” Simple. You need to understand there are morally upright and successful people in the world. They will raise their children to be the same. And these people have absolutely no desire for God.
Not every person who writes off God is a drug addict. Or a super evil villain. There are some people who raise great children without God. And as you go through life, resist the urge to over-generalize non-Christians as incredibly evil, incredibly broken, or incredibly homeless. “Bubbling” your children away from non-Christians because they are “evil” is a problem.
But for followers of Jesus, we rest in this truth…While it is possible to raise morally upright children without God, I do not believe parenting, marriage, or relationships reach their fullness outside of Jesus.
So don’t be shocked when you meet these people. Don’t be scared to let your children spend time with them. They might teach you something about parenting.
“Did he just say that?” Yes, I did.
5.) Having children does not make you a family.
God has given us the gift to create more people, but not a commandment. Being childless for any reason is not sinful or wrong.
There are many people without the ability to have children. Are these people wrong because they can’t have children? C’mon guys. Really?
Having children does not make you a family. It does not complete your family. The church has created anxiety and undue stress in many marriages because people are not following the “pattern.” Five years, max. Then it’s time for kids.
And if people notice a couple not following the “pattern,” questions arise. You know the half-hearted questions that are really serious.
“Are you waiting on something to drop from the sky and alert you to have kids?” Shoulder nudge.
“You guys are holding out on me. Aren’t you ready for me to hold a baby?” Wink. Wink.
In Genesis 1:28, God tells Adam and Eve, “Be fruitful and multiply.” Up to this point, God was in charge of creating people. In an amazingly awesome move, God transferred that ability to humans. But not as an issue of obedience. As a gift.
I think the church would do well to back off the human “pattern.” Allow couples to exercise another gift. Choice.
6.) Your children need you to be a parent, not a friend.
Being in youth ministry for several years, I saw this more than once. Parents more concerned with being the “cool” parent than being the godly parent.
I know you want to be your child’s best friend. But children do not need more friends. They are, however, in DESPERATE need of more direction and parental guidance. Your job as a parent is not to be your children’s best friend…it is to be their parent. And those two are often at odds with one another.
And I can say this because I experienced it personally. I had a cool parent. Everybody wanted to ride with me. Come to my house.
But looking back, I would trade every cool moment for a parent who disciplined me when I was out of line. A parent who pointed me to Jesus. Led with boldness and courage. Refused to allow anything to take precedent over the calling to love and serve your family.
7.) You must parent more conservatively than you live.
A mentor gave me this advice a few weeks ago. I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. Mainly because he was right.
A good example of this? A week or so ago I turned on Netflix to watch Breaking Bad. As I turned on the show, a man stepped out of an RV. In his underwear. Holding a gun. He looked desperate. I was fixated. Then I looked to my left. And I saw that my son was fixated too. Uh oh.
The decision I made next was an easy one for me. I turned off the show. We went back to Daniel Tiger (But be careful with Daniel Tiger too. Those songs are stinking addictive.).
The reason I turned off the show? I did not want to expose my son to the things I was watching. I can’t shield him from evil forever. I understand. At the same time, I want his mind to be filled with positive, life-breathing images as often as possible. When I have an opportunity to influence the messages he receives, I am going to take full advantage of it.
I am not presenting these 7 truths about parenting Christians need to grasp as an expert in the field of parenting. I have much to learn.
I present these truths as a reminder to Christians. We must think critically and honestly about our attitudes and mindsets. We must consider how we approach parenting. And how we approach others in our lives.
We must drive people to Jesus. Everyday. Every moment.
If you have some additional insight, leave a comment below.
I love you all. To God the glory forever. Amen!