Parenting "People"

One of the biggest impacts on how I look at my son was a passing comment a friend made about her daughter. When talking about how her baby girl (just a few months old at the time) struggles with certain things, she said, “She has her days, but, hey, so do I!” Our babies (and children) are people just like us.

This was really God’s idea, anyway. When He created people, He created them in the image of God. Since all people are created in the image of God, we are called to give respect and dignity to all of humanity, including babies and children.

Seeing our babies and children as people changes the way we parent. It should bring more patience, compassion, empathy, and understanding. I have listened to conversations and watched interactions that represent the opposite of seeing babies and children as people created in the image of God. It’s as though many adults often write off babies’ (and children’s) struggles as lesser or not needing the patience that we ourselves often require of others when they deal us.

The parenting of our children must come from a selfless place where we think about what we are doing, are clear and consistent, deal with our own heart first, and then validate their personhood. When we look at how God fathers us, training and disciplining children is clearly a Scriptural part of parenting (Proverbs 3:11-12 and Proverbs 22:6), but so is doing it in a way that does not frustrate, confuse, and demean them. God tells dads to not exasperate their children (Ephesians 6:4). Ultimately, this means that as parents we must be clear with our expectations of our children. I’ve watched parents punish for an action in a situation, but then let it go moments later in the same situation. Talk about feeling confused and exasperated! Of course we are going to have to discipline; however, disciplining on a whim or explosively or without warning or unclearly or with a sinful motive in our own hearts is a sure fire way to exasperate our kids!

Part of selflessly parenting also means parenting with compassion and understanding. We see God fathering us in this way throughout Scripture (Psalm 145:8). Having this loving tenderness will push us to put ourselves in our children’s shoes and try to understand what their experience of a situation is. This empathy validates their personhood. For example, can you fathom what it is like to just be learning to understand a new language and then have a person give you a forceful command followed by a swift punishment while you’re still trying to figure out what that person just said! Give your child a moment to process what you are saying, allowing them the personhood to think through the situation.

I overheard a mom (who I am guessing usually used a baby monitor) say that she would turn of the baby monitor when her child was teething so she could have some silence. That’s what not seeing your baby as a person does: it basically communicates that my needs as the parent are higher and more important than what you, the baby, are going through. This is a highly self-centered approach to parenting. Granted, as the parent, you know that sometimes if you let your teething baby cry for a few minutes that baby will fall back to sleep. Using that wisdom in parenting is not the issue here. The issue is with any parent disengaging from the child’s pain so that the parent can meet her own needs first and foremost. This is just not how God father’s us. He carries us when we’re in difficult places (Deuteronomy 1:31) and he is near when our hearts are broken (Psalm 34:18). He does not disengage when we are experience pain, but rather joins us in it.

Parenting your babies and children as people takes selflessness. It also takes an incredible amount of empathy. Below are a few questions to check your heart in this arena.

Quick Reference Heart Check for Parenting “People”:

Do you anticipate temptations and struggles that your child might have? Are you looking out for possible areas of misbehavior (at home and in public) so that you can guide your child clearly and consistently when those struggles arise?

Do you communicate with your toddler and child at their eye level, clearly, calmly, and in close proximity? Or do you communicate your instructions from afar, expecting immediate obedience without truly engaging them?

Does your child feel engaged by you prior to misbehaviors or only at the moment of discipline?

Do you understand that you have your own struggles going on, too, often in the same moment that your child is being disobedient? Have you searched out your own heart first before rushing into discipline? Do you understand what is going on inside of you, stopping to check your motives and method of discipline?

Do you engage with your child’s struggles understanding that they are compounded by developmental issues? Do you give your child who is just moving into language acquisition the time it takes to process your instructions (and warnings)?

I recently read in Rachel Jankovic’s book, Loving the Little Years, the following quote that sums this all up quite well:

“You might be thinking to yourself that you would be happy if only you could get a coffee and the kids would stop. Well, they are in the backseat thinking that they would stop fussing if only the parents would let them have a milkshake and go to Pizza Hut.”

Your children are people just like you!


Sacrifice vs. Suffering

I think we’ve got it all wrong when we believe that if we force ourselves into a little more suffering, then we’ll be close to God. Over the last few months, I’ve heard this idea taught at more than one Christian event and I honestly believe it’s anti-Gospel! So, I just want to set the record straight.

At one retreat, I heard the speaker say that his son needed a little more suffering in his life, ultimately so his son could grasp what really mattered, as though this father was hoping for his son to suffer. At another retreat, I heard someone share that she felt impressed to pursue the very last things that she would ever want to do, the things that she despised so that she could be close to Jesus. I have, of course, ranted to my husband about these incorrect teachings, but only in the last few days has it begun to sink in why these teachings sound like nails on a chalkboard to my soul.

The truth of the Gospel is that no human being can work himself or herself into relationship with God. There is nothing you, nor I, can do to reach to God on our own. Our works and are efforts to become pleasing to God on our own are detestable (Isaiah 64:6). When we follow Jesus, He makes us pleasing to God. It is through the rescue and restorative work of Jesus that we are acceptable to God. It is not through anything we do that we become acceptable to God.

So when we think that if we just force ourselves into a bit more suffering in order to get to God, we are completely backward in our thinking. Jesus already suffered so that we could be connected to God. Purposefully creating suffering does not get me closer to God. Thinking that if I just make myself miserable, then I’ll know God better is anti-Gospel. My efforts to get close to God without His help get me nowhere.

The truth is that suffering and struggle are already the reality. Struggle is part of the human experience because we live in a world that is broken due to sin (Genesis 3, Romans 8:20-23). Beyond that, God said that if we follow Him there will be suffering. If you follow Jesus, you will probably experience some kind of suffering at some point (John 15:20, 1 Peter 5:8-11). The truth is that we are going to struggle in life. But creating suffering in your life just for suffering sake or trying to use it as a catalyst to attain to God is not what God is talking about.

The example that we do see, though, is Jesus’ life of willing sacrifice. Jesus talks about us giving up all kinds of things as a response to the reality and grace of God. If you have given your life to following Jesus, you have a freedom to give up (or sacrifice) all kinds of things because you know that those things are not ultimate. The only thing that is ultimate is knowing and following Jesus. If I have given my life to following Him, then I know that I am connected to God, that my eternity is secure, and that my life on earth is His. Because of these greater realities, I am free to sacrifice. I am free to give my time, energy, money, gifts, abilities, intelligence, and creativity because my agenda, my plans, my life are no longer ultimate…Christ is.

Sacrifice is not easy, but there is a freedom in it when it is done in response to Jesus’ rescue of you. I have watch friends sacrifice all kinds of things because they understand that God loves them, they have a role to play in His work on earth, and that they are free to give things up now because the they already have security in the things that ultimately matter. One friend of mine volunteered at a church for an extended period of time, living on a smaller income because she knew she could give up money for the sake of furthering God’s work. Another friend and her husband are active in foster care, opening their home and their hearts, because they know that they can sacrifice what others might perceive as “the perfect family” in order to share God’s love with children who need a family. I have another friend who gave up her career so she could stay home with her four children, knowing that she could sacrifice “success” and the opinions of others so that she could devote herself to shepherding her children in following Jesus. And yet another friend took drastic steps in her life to deal with God deeply in her soul so that she could be healed from major hurts; she did this because she knew that she could sacrifice looking like she had it together for the sake of becoming whole through Jesus, so that she could love God and love people more fully.

Willing sacrifice is a doctrine of response. Self-imposed suffering is a religious work. A doctrine of response is simply the idea that I respond to God’s love and rescue of me. Because He gave His Son to bring me back to Him, I respond to this love. In response to God’s love, I give of myself to God, to His work on earth, to the people He created. Because He loved me, I am able to love (1 John 4:19). Trying to suffer so that I can get close to God is simply trying to earn my way to God. It is a religious act that does nothing other than makes me miserable. God is about rescue, redemption, reconciliation, and restoration; He is not about religion. Any method of trying to attain to God, other than receiving Gospel grace, is simply religion. All my religious acts mean nothing if they are not done out of love in response to God’s love for me (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).

So, why do you do what you do? Because you are trying to earn God’s approval? Because you are so completely consumed with Christ that you cannot help but respond? Stop. Think. Pray. If you are trying to earn God’s approval, you may want to stop and re-center yourself on Jesus, preach the Gospel to yourself again, and ask to be overwhelmed again by God’s rescue of you. Only from that place will you find the incredible desire to willingly sacrifice.


The Beginning

I keep asking myself why I want to start a blog. Whenever I start something, I want to understand why it is that I am starting that thing. Specifically I want to understand what the goal of said venture is and how that venture is a worthwhile use of time and energy. The core reason for starting this blog is simply that I love to write. That’s it. Beyond that, I would love to share through my writing some of the things I am learning. I am constantly being transformed by Jesus. And that process is quite the ride. This blog is small way to share some of that ride. Also, I now live far away from home. This blog is an attempt to make the distance between me and my friends and family feel a bit shorter. In a while, I am sure it will become clear whether this blog is indeed a worthwhile investment of time and energy.

Since moving away from home, I have also become a wife and a mom. My life now looks so different than it once did. Who I have been created to be has not changed; however, the context through which that is expressed has changed. I once was single, a teacher, a deacon, and a mentor. I now am a wife and a stay at home mom. I once was a “west coast girl” (and still am at heart). I now, however, live in the Midwest. Regardless of roles or context, one thing I am certain of: my life is meant to be lived as a form of worship. So wherever I find myself and whatever role I currently fill, my goal is to worship God with my life, asking him how to best live my current reality. Approaching my life as worship is a phenomenal experience. Because life is always changing, the best way to worship with my life is also always changing. This blog will be a window into the process.

What can you expect? I don’t quite know yet. The major topics will probably be those that are closest to my heart right now…spiritual life, marriage, and motherhood. Other topics that are always close to my heart and will most likely appear include womanhood, education, Jesus, Kingdom of God, and restoration. There are probably many more topics that haven’t even come to mind yet, but will find their way into this little space. We shall see. Looking forward to sharing with you.