When I was handed my baby the first time, there was so much I did not yet know about being a parent. Some things I knew about parenting already, but most of it I learned by living into the experience of being a parent and doing my best to do it biblically.
Our children are not delivered with a detailed owners' manual of what to do in every situation, but the Bible does offer some valuable perspectives, guidelines, and encouragement.
Here are some scriptural truths for parents:
Our children are not ours; they belong to God. You adopted them, or gave birth to them, and you refer to them as "my kids," but the truth is that our children do not really belong to us. They may have our looks or attitudes, but the ultimate image they carry is that of their Heavenly Father. God has made each of us in his image and called us to behave like his children. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 tells us, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” We all belong to our God and not just to earthly parents.
Our children are on loan for only a time. Our children remain connected to our hearts for a lifetime, but they only live under our direct influence for a season. God designed the marriage relationship to be lifelong, but our hands-on parenting ends as children leave their parent's home and become one with their spouse. Some of those parenting seasons can feel overwhelming as we struggle with colicky babies, defiant toddlers, or rebellious teens. Scripture tells us that there is a time for every purpose under heaven. If we can live in the moment and keep an eternal perspective, the difficult season is less likely to overwhelm us. It also means that as our children reach adulthood, we parents become much more advisors and less directors of the choices our children make. Particularly once a child is married, parents are no longer directly involved in decision making.
Our job is to introduce our kids to their Heavenly Father. The most fundamental job parents have is to show their kids who God is and who we are in God's world. We talk about God when we rise up, and when we lie down, when we are at home, and when we travel on the road (Dt 6:7). God desires that we love him with all of our being and that we spill over to our children. We represent God to our kids, and we are instructed to talk about our faith in our coming and going so that our children will learn God’s commandments and experience his love.
Discipline is one of the ways that we create disciples. God models for us the importance of discipline for molding our character for service in God's kingdom. Hebrews 12:8 tells us, "If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all." Parents bless and invest in their children by insisting on good behavior. The writer of Hebrews goes on to describe that "discipline produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it."
You are not alone. God equips us for the challenges that we face and walks with us through every trial. Jesus promised to be with us to the very end of the age. He has placed his Spirit within us so that we are empowered and guided through whatever difficulties we face in this life. We can walk through the valley of the shadow of death because God is with us comforting and encouraging. No parenting challenge is too overwhelming to the God who created everything out of nothing.
Parenting is never easy. It will bring us our greatest joys and our most painful heartaches. As parents, we come to understand through the Bible how much our Heavenly Father loves us and persists with us despite our defiance. The scriptures give us encouragement and guidance to navigate the challenges of parenting. Choose to listen to God's word.
Rev. Deb Koster
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra