Friday, April 25, 2014

Successful Parenting?

Our society is fueled by success, so what pops into your mind when I ask what makes a “successful” Christian parent? It’s a loaded question, right? For those of us who are parents, I have a feeling that as we talk about passing on faith to the next generation, it can be easy for feelings of guilt and failure to creep in. What if there is not peace at home? What if your children are away from the Lord? What if family devotions aren’t a part of the routine? Are you a success or failure as a Christian parent? There are so many expectations, and the questions can go on and on.

I recently had the privilege of attending the Hearts at Home conference for moms ( One session I sat in on was lead by author and mom Leslie Leyland Fields. From her experiences, she has written a book titled “Parenting is Your Highest Calling’ and 8 Other Myths That Trap Us In Worry and Guilt.”  

She was a great speaker. I wanted all of you to be able to hear her presentation, so a copy of her talk, plus many others are on CD in the Faith@Home center – you can check them out.

The session I attended was titled “Successful” Parenting or Faithful Parenting?” She talked about how God does not call us to be “successful” parents, but faithful parents. She believes that a lot of us buy into the myth that if we are successful as Christian parents, if we do our jobs correctly, and teach our kids all the right things, we’ll turn out perfect Christian children. It seems logical, right?

Many of you are probably familiar with this verse:

Excellent advice for any parent, and wise words for us to follow. But we need to keep in mind, that verse is a proverb (a wise saying) not a promise from God. Our actions and training alone cannot guarantee an eternal outcome for our children. Think about it- those words were written by King Solomon- the wisest man who ever lived. Do you think he was trained, and knew the right way to go? Of course he did- better than anyone! But by the end of his life, even he made choices that led him off track. Remember, no matter how much training they receive from us, our children have free will!

God himself had (and has!) some pretty rebellious children. Throughout the Old Testament he sent prophets to speak to them on his behalf. One in particular who was called to a difficult situation was Ezekiel. He certainly would not be called a “success” by our standards- people did not want to listen to him. God responded to the adversity Ezekiel faced not by making his job easier, but by making him stronger. Let’s listen to what God said to him (this is from Ezekiel 2:4-5): “The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn. Say to them, ‘this is what the Soverign Lord says.’ And whether they listen, or fail to listen, for they are a rebellious house, they will know that a prophet has been among them.”

We might not be prophets, and we can’t control our children’s hearts. But we do want them to know that a man or woman of God has been at home with them, whether they ultimately choose to listen or not. 

So what is our job? Remember the Deuteronomy 6:5 verse? For all of us, our most important job is to “Love the lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength,” and to be faithful in our relationships with the Lord. For those of us who are parents, I am confident that if we are in line with him, he will strengthen us- give us the wisdom, the desire, and creativity to connect with our children, and help us train them up in the way they should go. But the spiritual training and discipline needs to start with us in our relationships with him.  

As we approach Easter, in the Faith@Home center we will have some great resources and ideas for everyone to use at home- ways to ponder and share God’s story. But no matter what your walk of life, please remember that your focus should not be on the thing or activity itself, or guilt over whether an activity does or doesn’t get done, but that your actions will flow from your love for God, a desire to know him more, and share that story with others. The Bible itself is our ultimate resource! I encourage you to read the gospel of John, just as a reminder of the story of Jesus’ ministry, death and resurrection. Get that lesson in your own heart so you can share it!  As we’re thinking about SoulShifts, let’s consider another one more– a shift from being “successful” to faithful!

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