Monday, March 3, 2014

Ever Feel Like A Parenting Failure?

So, if I'm honest, there is a part of me that occasionally wonders how I'm doing... how we're doing, my wife and I, at parenting.  We're part of the young, Reformed, influenced by the Piper, Dever, Puritan crowd who believe in "Shepherding a Child's Heart".  However, there are so many little encounters where I can find myself dumbfounded...saying inwardly, "uh...what do I do here?"..."who do I discipline here?"..."do I give a gospel lesson here, a time-out or a spanking here, or what?".  Perhaps you don't have that struggle...you've got Christian parenting with a shepherding view in place, there is enormous fruit in your family's life, and all is well.  There are days for me like that, however, sometimes my wife and I comment that parenting is oh so hard.  A few thoughts that we are working through (and there are so many bloggers, writers, pastors to read on this who are better at this, so read them first):

1).  We want our home to be a training ground for the Kingdom--We want to wrestle through God's sovereign calling of our children to Himself, and yet call our children to Christ ourselves.  We don't want our kids to only live the American dream, with happiness as the goal...we want them to see the utter supremacy and beauty of Christ.  Some days, we think we see glimmers of this, often however, at just the time in the family devotion when I expect to see 'revival' of a Whitefield magnitude, one of my kids moves us into a discussion of burping, or toy soldiers, or something slightly less spiritual.  Perhaps a God-centered view of burping?  God, we need your grace to do this...

2).  We want discipline to point to law-breaking and Jesus' righteousness--Simply put, we desire, and so often fail at using moments to point our kids to their innate sinfulness and their inability to please God but not stop at a moral lesson, but push through to Jesus being our only hope.  Often however, if I'm honest, I wonder at how to balance this.  Some how, the age old pre-spanking "this hurts me more than it hurts you" (while potentially true for this tearful daddy) isn't enough.
God, we need your grace to do this...

3).  We want kids who feel safe in the fact that daddy & mommy love them and that daddy and mommy love each other--So many children grow up in this world wondering if daddy and mommy love them.  Sometimes, they may feel safe in that, but they wonder if daddy and mommy love each other.  Children need this God-given safety in the family.  I love to hug my wife, to give her a kiss...but I think in some way, it is good for my kids...particularly for my sons to see how a husband loves his wife.  However, what about those moments when there is a brief impatient word exchanged between us...what about when one of us is down and less affectionate. I feel like this one is an easier one for us and yet, God, we need your grace to do this...

4).  Although happiness is not the goal, it is not the enemy either--Sometimes amid all the good God-centered, heart shepherding speak, I wonder if we as parents in the Reformed culture don't allow our kids just to enjoy being kids.  Don't get me wrong--I tremble at the thought that "stuff" will become my kid's god...I tremble thinking that the American Dream of radical money and radical independence will take over their hearts...I tremble at the fear that my kids will learn the mantra "more" vs. the mantra "Thine".  However, sometimes I wonder if I do a good enough job at letting my kids just "be" in the moment, free from "another instruction"...just being happy.  I am learning to do this more and more...to let my eldest son rejoice in Star Wars stuff, to let my girl enjoy a princess or two...to let my youngest boy wrestle with what food he likes and dislikes without turning the moment into a "there a starving kids in Africa..." 
God, we need your grace to do this...

5).  What if God is using parenting to grow my kids, but to sanctify me more?--We got into parenting, at least I did, with visions of Puritan grandeur...family worship, behaved children, a nursery for the kingdom, etc...and while I believe this is happening in small doses in our home, I think the Lord has been impressing on me that He has allowed me to be a Father, precisely because He wants me to see how much I need my Heavenly Father.  I love when our kids "get" something about the Bible, the gospel, or the world...I don't think we're failing, but I need to be reminded often that one of the chief means God is using to sanctify me right now could be my role as a parent.
God, we need your grace to do this...


So, yes, sometimes I feel like I'm missing it as a parent...and then I begin to think about the passage that we usually only equate to missions, and I hear it ring true in my mission field as a parent: "...make disciples, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you, and I will be with you to the end..."  Yes, oh yes, it is worth it parents for us to parent well, with intentionality, with a view toward shepherding and one of the lessons we learn in it all is:  God, we need your grace to do this...