Monday, February 15, 2010

Peace-filled Parenting, Part 2

I reread my own post, part 1, and thought to myself, "C'mon, Karen. Every parent produces results in their kids."

And I realize before going any further, I must qualify my stance: I believe that as parents, we can NOT produce spiritual results in our children. But of course, parenting involves results galore.

For example...

Our children hopefully do not dart off of the sidewalk into oncoming traffic. This is because we have given them enough incentives not to do so. (that is, if you want more than three pages in your baby book, do not run into the street.) In a manner of speaking, we have produced results in our children.

Our kids are homeschooled. I would be a terrible homeschooling mother - still debatable, at this point - if I did not produce some kind of results in my children when it comes to their education.

One of our kids recently became obsessed with calling people "poopy pants." Sorry to the lady at WalMart who was called this very loudly by an extremely verbal two-year old. This may or may not have had anything to do with a marble and a mother jokingly calling him that. Whether I like it or not, I contributed to this outcome.

So, can we produce results in our children? Of course! Sometimes, that's our job. It's why my children are paranoid about plastic bags suffocating everyone. Because I've produced that result. (Thank you for the paranoia, say my adult children in twenty years. You're very welcome.) Because it's my job. Other times, producing results in our children is a blessing. When my six-year old finally finishes that chapter book she's been fighting through, it's an exciting moment to see the results of our labor. Sometimes, it's a real bummer. I'll never forget a friend cussing under her breath when a drink spilled in the car and her three-year old went around saying, "Dimmit" for weeks afterwards. Whether it is our job, a blessing, or a real bummer, parents are influential and do indeed produce results in their children.

That's why parents are so important! Duh. I can't believe how gracious you are if you are still reading this. My genius mind is just on fire today. Of course we produce results! Today, in my house, it's why I made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. One of my jobs is producing the meals. The results were less than I had hoped for: half-eaten sandwiches and a lot of complaining about crust and crunchy peanut butter. Grrr. But it is a result that I produced. It's also why most of us Christians understand that adoption is a worthwhile calling. Or why many of us women choose to be home with our children. Because we realize that we have something to give. It might not be perfect, but family and life together does produce some results, some benefits, and many, many blessings.

Not all of these are positive. The alcoholic mother will, by her behavior, produce certain results in her children. The verbally abusive father will get results - outward compliance and defeated children. Even Pavlov's dogs produced the desired results that Pavlov was seeking. I'm stating the obvious: parents are productive, influential, and can indeed produce behavior in their children.

BUT, and it's a huge but (Hee-hee, call me an adolescent.), we can not produce spiritual results in our children. I do not believe we were ever called to produce godly children. Their choices are their own, their hearts are their own. As much as I would like to throw Free Will out the window, it's here to stay. And so are our children (not that we want to throw them out a window. Never.). But "being confident of this very thing: that He who has begun a good work in us will be faithful to complete it," (Phil. 1:6), I rest in full confidence that God's work in my children will be completed. I may or may not be used in this work, but it is God's work. As the Apostle Paul said, "I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth." (1 Corinthians 3:6-7).

And no matter what the results are, God in Heaven is faithful. And His work in my childrens' hearts is complete, all-knowing, and perfect. Their response to that work is their own.

Such peace has come into our home as I have finally let go of the burden of producing spiritual giants! My childrens' disobedience, which used to trigger personal guilt and shame at my obvious parenting failure, is now my cue to speak, to guide, to question, to gently lead, to discipline. Their obedience, which used to trigger pride and self-congratulations at my obvious parenting success, is now my cue to encourage, to praise God for His work in that child's life. As reactionary as it appears to be, I believe this is the way God parents us. He deals with the heart, He woos us with His love, and He allows us to make our own choices and live with the consequences. Similarly, we were not meant to pioneer our childrens' faith. It is not a family-driven faith, it is a Spirit-driven faith. We are meant to lead them as a shepherd guides the sheep to water. Whether they drink or not is up to them and the Spirit who seeks them.

For Part 3, I'll provide my humble ideas on the obvious question then: what is the role of Christian parents in the spiritual formation of children? I'll give you a hint: I'm not a defeatist, our role is huge!


1 comment:

Summerlyn Sharpe said...

Karen, this is so good--and so true!!
Thank you for starting a blog. It is often a source of laughter in my week, but it is also full of thought-provoking spiritual nourishment.