I’ve been thinking about parenting lately – in fact, quite a bit. We’ve been having conversations with our close friends who have children the same age, and it turns out that we’re not the only ones. I’ve appreciated the exchange of thoughts with these wonderful people.
The basis for this stems from what Shawn and I really want at the end of our time with our children in our home. Absolutely we want them to have a fun childhood, full of memories, joy, laughter, spontaneous and crazy acts of kindness and love, as well as a home-based education that equips them to live and love in a needy world that is desperate for whole hearts, sold out to serve their God with an unquenched passion.
But most of all, we want them to know the incredible heart of the Father towards His children – a loving Father who is not mad at them or a control freak, but who is slow to anger and rich in love. We want them to live from this place and have this govern their core values and the decisions they will make in life. With the unconditional love of the Father in their foundations, surely they are equipped to live a life extraordinary?
So how do we work to that end and bring our ways into line with His will? How do we provide an environment and upbringing where our children can’t help but be drawn to know the Father above all else?
Although Shawn and I were raised in different families with different core values and beliefs, the same underlying thinking still governed the paradigm from which both our parents raised us. And they too were raised in the same basic thinking. But as it turns out, we are no longer post-industrial revolution citizens. We aren’t living in the 19th century. Remember the old adage that ‘children should be seen and not heard’ for instance – is such thinking really relevant in this time in history? How are we to prepare our children for a world that we cannot yet see? And by preparation, I don’t just mean a formal education with the right skill set to survive job-wise and function in the future economy.
Preparation for us means taking a hard look at our values and priorities. It means looking at what we are passing on and communicating to our children, in terms of revelation of the Father’s love. It means making connection with our children a highest priority, over our own convenience and comfort. It means building a family that is centred on welcoming our Heavenly Father into every corner of our home, and bringing the atmosphere of heaven to earth. It means leading them to want to know the irresistible love of our God, which in turn will stir a desire in them to serve and love. It means modelling this! So whatever the future may hold, in terms of world economy, poverty, justice, issues across nations, personal freedom, and so forth, their hearts are equipped and their character built to live in any future – because the Father’s love propels a person into compassionate action and courageous love. It is the well from which a person lives and is sustained in all circumstances.
So in this process of re-thinking parenting, turns out we can’t just read some books, and tweak our thinking here and there. It turns out we need to be completely undone with the love of the Father ourselves – which in turn will drive out the less desirable things about our character and our values that don’t best reflect His nature and heart, or His plans for our little family. His love causes us to let go of wanting to be in control of our children, and instead opens us up to possibilities and opportunities that only freedom rooted in love can provide.
There’s no specific method to living out the Father’s love in our family – just an invitation for us and for our children to encounter Him more deeply, and for us to express His heart towards His children that are in our care and stewardship for this time. What a privilege and responsibility! It’s such a short time when you think about it. Why wouldn’t we lay down some of our own dreams for a season, if it means we get to build into the generations to come? Now that is a dream worth committing to!
We find ourselves now walking out on water somewhat, and allowing the Holy Spirit to guide us in expressing His heart towards each one of our uniquely created children. Sure, we find ourselves using strategies in our parenting that will better help us in building whole hearts. But the strategies without a love-filled home are simply re-arranging furniture.
Love itself needs to be free from control fuelled by fear. We aren’t trying to make our children be or do anything – we are to “train up a child in the way they should go”, not in the way we want them to go. We’re equipping them to take personal responsibility, make their own decisions and live with the consequences, gently walk them through those consequences if need be, lavish love upon them, and encourage them at every opportunity. It means humbling ourselves when we’ve made mistakes instead of maintaining the ‘I’m the boss, you must obey’ stance. Most importantly, it means staying connected to them, especially during times of discipline, and giving them the freedom to make mistakes. It means recognising their gifts and abilities, and providing a platform for them to fully express who they are, even if it means that we adjust our dreams for them.
If we offer our children freedom instead of trying to just get them to do what we want immediately via fear and control, the process could look messier and may take longer. But we are not building robots. We are building hearts. We are raising sons not slaves.
I hope my external thought processing gives you something to think about also. We certainly don’t have it all worked out yet. But one thing I do know for sure – once you encounter the love of the Father, you are forever changed. That pursuit is consuming me at present. And I know that my life and that of my family are on a course that is forever changed. There’s no turning back!