We are now almost 2 and half years into the adventure that is parenting! It is an absolute privilege and one of the most fulfilling things. At the same time it can also be deeply challenging! Before you switch off, fear not this is not an excuse for a jolly good moan about being a parent, I wouldn’t change it for the world. Plus what good did moaning ever achieve!
Today I am reflecting on one of the many things that parenting reminds you, and that is that our ability to control others and the environment around us is in fact imaginary! Our desire to have a nice simple life often leads us to think that our best interest is found in controlling everything we possibly can. We learn to control our calendars, our pets, our homes through smart devices and perhaps even (on a good day) our diet. As much as we would like to exert our will upon other people it generally doesn’t work out well for us or them.
If you are anything like me you will catch yourself attempting control! The inner desire that bubbles up to reply to questioning toddler “Cos I said so!” or “Just do what I said!”. Or simply trying to steer a conversation your way.
I read the book “Loving our Kids on Purpose” by Danny Silk almost 4 years ago, pre-kids. It is really great and also really challenging! Danny characterises an old testament perspective on parenting as one focussed on obedience. The goal being conformance. He then goes on to describe a new covenant perspective focussed on prioritising relationship and helping children manage their freedom. The aim is we learn to parent from this perspective.
It makes a lot of sense and for me seems to more closely matches the way God “parents” us. The challenge is in changing our thought process and behaviour in this direction. For most of us we default to wanting conformance and obedience as a primary sign of success. We notice other parents whose kids seem to do what is asked without questioning.
I have often wonder if this tendency is what we see in the Old Covenant as Israel chooses to have a relationship with God through a set of rules. It seems safer but ultimately proves unsuccessful. The good news of the New Covenant is that our relationship is no longer engaged on the basis of obedience to law but by grace. The amazing thing is that the grace not only welcomes us before we do anything right it also empowers us to do the right thing, to be obedient.
Obedience often has negative connotations. Particularly for the recent generations (including my own) who don’t have the same in built, assumed respect for authority and institution, as previous generations. The reality however is that obedience is actually a good thing. The negative feeling is most often because we associate obedience with a forceful and demanding power put upon us. Obedience motivated by fear. The motivation matters, but it can be positive.
Servants obey, but so do good friends. It is not just about doing the right things but what motivates us to do the right thing. Do we do as friends ask because we must or because we love and choose to value them. As Christians our obedience is best shown as a response to our love. The sad thing is that we can spend a lifetime doing the right things, being obedient and yet never have that saving relationship that enables us to experience God’s love. The very thing designed to lead us into life in all it’s fullness.
God is not forcing us to obey him, like a tyrant or dictator. He gave his life to reveal that he loves us. Our obedience is a response to that and reveals we understand that he is a good father. When he tell us something as a command he is not trying to control the outcome he is trying to reveal something that he knows is for our benefit, like a parent warning their child to stay away from fire.
I’m still learning what it is to be a parent, but I’m greatly encouraged that I get to do life with the perfect father. I watch on like a small child, in awe and in love, and hoping that I can pick up a thing or two along the way.
Father show me what it is to prioritise love, avoid controlling others and help me represent you as a father. Help!