Parenting With the End in Mind

When I think about the end of my life and what I hope will be, I never think about my dress size, my 401-K, the size of the church I will retire from, or how many people might show up at my funeral.  What I want most at the end of my life is for my children to have a thriving, transformed life in Jesus.  But here’s the problem – I can’t make that happen.  As much as I might want to be, I am not in control of their lives, spiritually or otherwise.  That has been a struggle for me – to want something so much but know that you can’t control it.

 I was reading a book about parenting one day when I had this “Ah-Ha!” moment – God has a plan for the redemption of my children whether I am on board or not.  God created them, Jesus died for them, and God’s Spirit is at work in them – my children and yours.  This is true if they are raised in a Christian home and it is true if they aren’t.  God’s desire is to be known by every human being and God’s Spirit is at work in every human life to reveal God’s love to each soul.  That was a freeing moment for me as a parent.  I am not in control of making my children believe in God’s love, but God is working on it and God invites Wes and I to be partners in inviting them to life in God.

 In Chapter 1 of Spiritual Parenting Michelle Anthony asks this question, “What is my end goal in raising each of the children God has entrusted to me, and how will I parent them with that end in mind?(25)”  If the end goal is that our children know a life transformed in and by God’s love then what can we parents do to encourage them?  We cannot control the faith of our children, but we can choose to exercise our own faith in such a way that we are living examples of transformed lives.  We cannot control their choice to listen to God’s voice, but we can put them in proximity to God’s Word at home and at church such that they come to know what God’s voice sounds like and can see what following God’s lead looks like (John 10:4).  We cannot make them choose Christ, but we can let them see and experience the sort of abundance that Jesus promises when we follow Him (John 10:10).  As parents we cannot make our children behave or believe, but we can put them “in the path of the divine” and trust that God’s power is at work beyond what we can do ourselves.  Spiritual parenting begins in our own spiritual life, cultivated and lived authentically, before our children as a living witness to God’s power and love.  It begins with the end in mind and a hearty dose of faith in God’s plan and promise that salvation is God’s work, not ours.  And it begins with prayer:

 Lord, shape my life that I may be the parent you need me to be

     so that these treasures you have entrusted to me

     may see a living witness of your love.

Help me to get out of your way

    and to put my children in the path of the divine,

    trusting that you are already doing the rest.

Shape me and my children

    into the people you have created and redeemed us to be

    for your glory.  Amen.

 Pastor Toni Ruth

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5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Shirley Luce
    May 13, 2013 @ 18:15:37

    “we can put them “in the path of the divine” and trust that God’s power is at work beyond what we can do ourselves” This is powerful and comforting, through at times difficult. As I look back on my childhood this is exactly what my parents did for me. Their example has been a blessing.

    Reply

  2. TracyB
    May 13, 2013 @ 20:23:47

    I like what you say about God’s spirit being at work in all of us, including our children. We are not alone.

    Sometimes, it’s a bit terrifying to have so much responsibility with so little apparent control of what’s inside their heads and hearts. I note this especially, being a very flawed person with only 6 years of experience at trying to live a Christian life (well, at least after knowing what it entails) and having very little experience seeing other Christians, and how they live. Also, being inclined to make almost every parenting mistake possible. If you aren’t brought up to an openly-Christian life, it’s hard to know what to do- you don’t even speak the language! Not to mention, trying to lead them in the right direction, in the times when things don’t seem very abundant, and they should in all rights flee the other direction, rather than use me as a guide. It’s good to know we have a not-unskilled partner in this work!

    I am also very thankful for the community of HUMC for helping me in this endeavour and filling in the holes where I am weakest (and there are many areas there, so I really owe you). Assuming we all have flaws in not only our parenting style, but also our spiritual walk (not sure about y’all, just know I do :-), this situation reinforces our need for a Christian community to surround our children and fill in where we fail, set examples, etc.

    Finally, I really enjoyed the author’s take on something I’ve thought a lot about, these past few years. I was brought up with strict proscriptions: not just don’t lie and steal, but don’t annoy anyone or get in their way. Never leave your shopping cart or car where it blocks someone. Don’t you dare annoy your father when he’s in a bad mood. But I’ve realised lately how empty that can be, and how insufficient. The proscriptive model keeps you out of the way and out of “trouble”. It makes grocery stores and roadways much more pleasant, and restaurants and classrooms much quieter (something we do need!) but it leaves you not only neurotic and jumpy, but also empty and alone, if it’s your main model of morality.

    Dan once said that the Presbyterians use the word “debt” in the Lord’s Prayer, because we not only need forgiveness for what we do wrong, but also for what we fail to do right. That really made me think about my life, because the latter (apart from the usual “work hard, get good grades, and make lots of money at your job” talk) was not really part of my upbringing, and I mean for it to be for my kids. The idea of reaching out to people and sharing the love of Christ, even if it’s just a kind word or a bottle of water on a hot day, is indeed far more important and a much better way to live.

    I’m not entirely sure that teaching Julia to love others will immediately stop her from climbing over or sneaking under pews to steal Dave Bilbro’s money for the sheep offering, or Mike Brown’s gum to chew in Children’s church. Something tells me, there is a need in the lives of especially the youngest children to teach what not to do as well as how to be, despite everything the author states. But I do agree with her that the usual kid-be-quiet-training may stop a few nasty looks, but a genuine relationship with God will lead not only to a healthier life with love for neighbours that pays off for us all in this life, but other eternal rewards of consequence that easily dwarf any “good behaviour” reward in significance.

    Although right now, I’d settle for even moderately-good behaviour. Or a baby-sitter.

    Apologies for the loquacity. I’m afraid that characteristic may be ineradicable.

    Reply

  3. Tim
    May 13, 2013 @ 21:55:29

    Thank you for this post and for the opportunity to be a part of a learning community on spiritual parenting. I’m excited about taking this journey with other parents and am eager to see what I can learn. Based solely on the first chapter and TR’s blog post, I now know that my (and Melissa’s) role is to be a spiritual compass, not a spiritual GPS.

    After spending the weekend with the 12 confirmands it was abundantly clear that the decision they had to make about joining the church was theirs and theirs alone. It wasn’t for their parents to decide, it wasn’t for their pastors to decide – it was for them. When we baptize our babies we make a promise before God and our fellow Christian brothers and sisters that we will “nurture this child in Christ’s Holy Church that by our teaching and example they may be guided to accept God’s grace for themselves, to profess their faith openly, and to lead a Christian life.” What a scary responsibility! Thankfully we have someone who is ready and able to help us when we falter. God knows we need Him!

    Reply

  4. Diane
    May 15, 2013 @ 13:20:00

    I agree that we lead by example not by how we tell our children they should act. In striving to always grow in my faith and sharing it in small doses, Also, putting them in the path of others who can help them be lead to God is our duty. Being mindful of who those people are and how they conduct them selves.

    Reply

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