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The holy work of parenting

The story is told about a man who wrote a book called Everything You Want to Know About Parenting. He was a bachelor. A few years later he got married, had a child, and a second edition of the book was released. The title had been changed to Some Principles of Parenting.  Another child came along and with it a third edition called Some Ideas That Might Be Helpful In Raising Children. Finally, there was a third child and a fourth edition: The Dangers of Overpopulation.

It’s true—parenting can be one of the most humbling endeavors you’ll ever undertake. I remember years ago watching a young child engaging in some disruptive behavior. Standing next to me was a young, married guy with no children. As we observed the child’s antics he said something to the effect that this would never happen with him because when he became a parent his child would know who the boss was. I told him he really didn’t want to be making statements like that because you never know how things are going to turn out. Sure enough, a few years later he was the parent of a wild child and things weren’t as easy as he had thought they would be.

Parenting is the toughest job you’ll ever love, but it is also the most enriching, intimate, and meaningful task that God has given us to do. It brings us close to our Father’s heart because with His help we create a life in our own image. Our mission is then to do everything we can to shape, mold, and develop that life in such a way so that he or she can be everything that God made them to be. In parenting then, we are doing with our children the same kinds of things that God is doing with us. Correspondingly, it can bring us to our knees or put our head in the clouds.

My heart goes out to those parents whose adult children aren’t living like they should. It pains their heart in the same way that our disobedience pains the heart of our Father. I’ve heard people quote Proverbs 22:6 (“Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it”) to insinuate that these parents somehow didn’t do their job or their child would be living differently. This is a misapplication of the text because it fails to recognize that most of the proverbs (including this one), provide general rather than absolute truth. This can be clearly seen in 26:4 where we’re told, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him.” Good advice—most of the time. However there are also occasions where we should “Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes” (26:5). So the best parents in the world can have a child who chooses to go astray. Adam and Eve had the best Father in the world and they did just that.

Finally, I’d like to remind parents that we are never done parenting—even after our children have left the nest and started their own families. If things work out the way they should, our relationship changes and blooms into a wonderful, glorious friendship. Nonetheless, they are still our children and as such, we’re still parenting. We’re just doing it in different ways than when they were growing up.  

When Joseph is about to die, he requests that his body be embalmed so that when his people return to Canaan as God has promised, they can take his remains with them and bury him there. The Hebrew writer tells us that he did this “by faith”—he believed what God had said about returning to the land and was acting upon it (11:21). Even in his death (and after) Joseph is parenting by pointing his children and grandchildren to God’s promises and His faithfulness. As parents we must not lose sight of the fact that our attitudes, decisions, and actions all continue to have influence on our family.

May God bless us all in the holy work of parenting.

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