By Sarah Evans
There are a lot of parallels between our relationship with God, and our relationship with our children. Our understanding of God’s fatherly role in our spiritual lives will often affect our own role as a parent. If we see God primarily as a loving and compassionate father, we will find it easier to show unconditional love to our own children.
In the same way, if we see God as a severely critical and punitive father, we will often find it difficult to show our children compassion and understanding when they make a mistake. And so it is important that we ask ourselves the following questions:
– How do I see God’s primary role as a parent in my own spiritual walk?
– Do I see Him as a loving father who delights in me, or as an overly critical and punitive father?
It is important to ensure that our own understanding of God’s fatherly role in our lives be based on the truth (what is written in the scriptures), and not on our own limited experience, that will often come from our own ‘earthly’ parents’ and their primary style of parenting.
The truth is that God’s love for us is unconditional and perfect. As our Heavenly Father, His primary role is to lovingly teach us, and guide us away from danger. He shares in our sorrows, rejoices in our successes, and whether we soar high or stumble to the ground – He takes delight in us, His children, whom He created in His image.
‘My (child), do not despise the Lord’s discipline, neither be weary of His reproof: for whom the Lord loves, He reproves; even as a (parent) reproves the (child) in whom (they) delight’. (Proverbs 11-12)
Are we able to experience delight in our journey as a parent? Do we experience pleasure and joy from spending time with our children? Or do we often find ourselves feeling tired and frustrated, as we struggle to keep everything from spiraling out of control?
I remember several years ago when a friend of mine telephoned me for parenting advice. It was during the summer when the schools were closed, and my friend was ‘going crazy’ trying to keep her children busy. She was a stay at home mother, and her children were aged 7, 4 and 2 years. She listed a bunch of different behaviors that her children were exhibiting, and told me “I am going to lose it”. I listened for a while to her feelings of frustration and helplessness, and I began to feel helpless too. I did not know what to tell her.
It is not easy entertaining three children who are of all different ages. But then all of a sudden I found myself asking my friend the following question, and as the words rolled off my tongue I wondered where the wisdom had come from because it even impressed me. I asked her, “Do you enjoy spending time with your children?” There was a huge pause at the other end of the line, and then she quietly replied “not really”. I continued by telling her “they know”.
Even though she had not told them overtly, her children had picked up on all of the subtle messages of discontent and were displaying inappropriate behavior as a result. Every child wants to please, and they want to be pleasing in their parent’s sight. It is the same in our relationship with our Heavenly Father.
As God delights in us and smiles over us, even though we make mistakes, we are to also delight in the children that He has placed into our trust. As we make the effort (in God’s strength) to delight in them and show them unconditional love and acceptance, so they will also learn to understand God’s unconditional love and acceptance for them.
It is the same principle with discipline and reproof, as delight and discipline go hand in hand; in order to be a God-fearing and godly parent you cannot have one without the other. But that is a topic for another time.
Ask your Heavenly Father to help you in better understanding His perfect love for you, and remember: God never intended that you walk through this parenting journey alone…”for the Lord is good, and abundant in loving kindness to all those who call on Him”. (Psalm 86:5)