One of my responsibilities as a pastor is to provide compassionate counseling to those in need. One of the greatest values to my life is that I am telling others exactly what I need to hear. I believe I have resisted some sin and dealt with other sin faster because I was often confronted by the Scripture I was sharing with someone else.
This applies to parenting as well. As parents, we hear ourselves tell our children what we need to hear.
Here are four ways we as parents grow spiritually through our parenting.
#1. Identifying issues in our lives by seeing them in our child’s life
One of the harsh realities of parenting is our children learn from us. It’s not the only source of learning, but it’s a major one. When your child uses particular phrases or acts in a certain way, it’s often because she or he picked it up from Mom and/or Dad. As parents, we can have many different reactions. We might say, “Do what I say, not what I do.” We might excuse the behavior. If we are wise, we will see it, acknowledge our part in it, and change.
Sometimes the Lord uses our children to help us as parents see things we were blind to before. For example, a father might not think he responds in hurtful, biting tones and language to his wife. It is normal communication in his mind. But when his four-year-old son speaks that way to his mother, all of a sudden, things change. He corrects his son, only to hear, “That’s how you talk to Mom.”
Ironically, sometimes our child’s misbehavior needs to result in repentance for both the child and the parent. One of the graces of parenting is God helps us see things that were not clear before.
#2. Learning Scripture well enough to share with our children
Proverbs 1–9 provides many examples of “My son” speeches. They represent talks between parents and a young man. It reads like the practical application of Deuteronomy 6:6–9 where parents are to teach their children the commandments of the Lord.
In order to teach, parents have to know the material. Every parent, pastor, children’s ministry or youth teacher knows you learn the material when you have to explain it to others.
We all read our Bibles with certain thoughts and questions in our minds. As parents, we experience problems and look for truth to apply to the intricacies of our lives. When we read God’s Word and ask for his wisdom, we gain insights we wouldn’t have had otherwise.
When we grow in our knowledge of Scripture, we are able to share a bigger, more intimate Jesus.
#3. Recognizing and asking for God’s grace
We all want to believe we know more than we do. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” When we read verses like this, sometimes it’s easy to want to say, “Okay, I need to start off well and the rest will care for itself.”
Not only does this mentality miss the point of Proverbs 22:6 but every parent knows it doesn’t quite work that way.
Children are independent beings with thoughts, desires, wills, and emotions. As parents, we are trying to mold those thoughts, desires, wills, and emotions by using Scripture.
Our children, however, have other shaping influences. Thus, there is a battle for the heart of our children. Even when, by God’s grace, there’s a great victory, that does not mean every day will be just like it in the future. What seems to work well for one child does not work equally well with all of them.
We need God’s grace for parenting. We want to raise our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. However, whether or not our children follow Christ is not up to us. Dependence on God’s grace is good for us and helps us grow spiritually.
#4. Developing spiritual courage that impacts other areas of life
We like to say “parenting is war.” What we mean is there is a battle every day for the heart and life of our children. Some days things go really well, and other days nothing seems to go right. Our experience is not unique.
Deuteronomy 6 reminds us teaching children occurs when you sit in the house, walk by the way, when you rise up and when you lie down. In other words, it’s all the time.
This coupled with the fact that our children don’t always want to be held accountable or instructed can lead to fear. We fear upsetting or offending our children. We don’t talk to them about issues for fear our child will hide more. God uses these difficult moments to build spiritual courage in parents.
Galatians 6:1 says if anyone sins (is a child included?) you who are spiritual must restore with a spirit of gentleness. Parenting provides many such opportunities. Many parents need to learn to have more courage in addressing problems and issues in all areas of life.
There are more than four ways we grow spiritually as parents; however, each of these is significant. We can thank the Lord he not only gave us the stewardship responsibility of being a parent but the opportunities for growth that parenting provides.
TYING THEIR SHOES: A CHRIST-CENTERED APPROACH TO PREPARING FOR PARENTING
First-time, soon-to-be parents and moms and dads expecting an additional child will find Christ-centered hope, practical advice, and encouragement toward parental unity in this invaluable resource.