When my parenting ‘wisdom’ didn’t work out the way I had in mind, and I had to acknowledge my complete lack of patience and inner peace, I felt desperate. There were times I cried: “O Lord, I just can’t raise this child. I’m not fitted for this job!”
But just as God didn’t make a mistake when He made her, He didn’t make a mistake when He made me her mom. And just as I had to decide to trust God with her present and future, I had to decide to trust Him with mine. I had to believe that, since He has given me this special, wonderful girl, He would also give me the strength and wisdom to guide and help her, now and in the future.
And in this process of learning to trust God more every day, I also got a deeper understanding about how He parents me, as his child. These are some of the lessons that changed my perspective on parenting:
1. God is a loving and giving Father
“For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son…” John 3:16.
God sacrificed his only begotten Son, the One that was near to his heart, because He loved the world so much. And his Son, Jesus Christ, volunteered in this plan of Salvation: He chose to lay down his life, because He shared his Father’s love for the world.
What do I want to sacrifice for my children? Am I willing to sacrifice what is near to my heart out of love for my children? And do I, like Jesus, have this mindset to lay down my own life for the ones I love? This makes a world of difference in how I approach my children throughout the day!
Of course I love my children – don’t we all love our families? But do I make sure they really feel it? Not just because I care for them, I dress them, I feed them – but do I show it by sacrificing my time for them, letting go of the things I like or planned to do, and giving them my undivided attention instead, whenever possible? I sure can do this so more often!
2. God wants a relationship with His children
“My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways.” Proverbs 23:26.
The Lord searches for our hearts and wants not only to talk to us through his Word and the Holy Spirit, He wants us to talk back to Him in prayer throughout the day. He draws us near to Him, so we can walk with Him and listen to Him, and He hears all our prayers, even the slightest sigh.
He invites us again and again to spend time with Him, with his Word, so we really get to know Him, just like He knows us. And when we are close to Him, He can show us the way He wants us to go – the only way that leads to true peace and joy.
Do I really search for the hearts of my children? Do I talk to them, or also with them? And do I only things for them, or do I also things with them? By listening to them while doing things together, I can get to know their hearts. I want to create an atmosphere that encourages them to open up to me about what’s going on in their lives, about their inner thoughts, about things that happened at school… In that way our relationship grows deeper and stronger, and they become more willing to accept my guidance.
3. God desires obedience from the heart
Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Rome: “But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.” Romans 6:17.
What is true obedience? Do we obey because we have to; because we are afraid of the consequences? Or do we obey from the heart?
God is Almighty. He could easily make us obey, even against our will – just like a master could force a slave he owns to obey him. But it’s clear that’s not what God desires from people He wants a relationship with! He wants us to obey from the heart, voluntarily, not forced or out of fear for consequences, but out of love for Him.
How do I approach the issue of obedience when it comes to my children? Do I force them to obey me by threats of punishment? When I focus on rewarding good behavior, and punishing unwanted behavior, how easy it is to overlook the issues of the heart!
And when they are having a hard time obeying me – perhaps I haven’t shown my love for them enough lately? Maybe they need more attention from me? Because it’s so much easier to obey from the heart when you feel loved and cherished by the person who asks you to do something.
4. God is trustworthy and faithful
“But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.” Matthew 5:37.
What God says, He does. What He promises, He delivers. He is faithful to His words, He is unshakable and consistent. That’s why I can trust Him fully with my life! That’s why I want to obey Him, even though I don’t always understand Him. This I know: He always has the best for me in mind. I can trust Him!
This teaches me so much, as a parent. I know I’m not infallible, like God is. I sometimes say things in a hurry or without much thought, and then I have to reconsider my words afterwards. When my children didn’t cooperate I sometimes resorted to empty threats: “If you don’t get in the car right now, I am leaving without you!”
I want to practice to be more intentional with my words. To be trustworthy I need to be very consistent, and keep my word. Then my children hopefully will also listen to me when I advise against something that might harm them – just because they know they can trust me and I have the best for them in mind.
5. God sets boundaries to protect us
“Thou shalt keep therefore his statutes, and his commandments, which I command thee this day, that it may go well with thee…” Deuteronomy 4:40.
God gave Israel the law, and promised them his protection and blessing if the Israelites kept his commandments. And now, in the time of the new covenant, God writes his laws in the hearts of the believers. These commandments are not given to make life difficult for us – they are boundaries that protect us from all the ugly consequences that will follow when we live in sin. They are meant to keep us safe.
As parents we also set boundaries for our children, to protect them from harm, physically and spiritually. And it’s important that we keep them, and not give in when our kids are whining, or succumb under pressure from today’s society.
But is safety always my main focus? Or do I sometimes just say ‘no’ – not because something might harm them, but because it means more work for me? Because it doesn’t suit me if my child wants to do something? Am I sure I give them enough space to breathe, to grow, to explore – or do I narrow the boundaries unnecessarily because I am overly worried, or tired, or maybe a bit legalistic by nature? Many power struggles can be avoided when I say ‘yes’ more often – even though it might mean there is more mess to clean up afterwards.
Read on for the next five lessons: 10 parenting lessons I’ve learned from having God as my Father – part 2.