Sometimes it seems like all we do is shush them, or maneuver snacks to avert a meltdown during worship, send “the look” or a pointed finger at them during a children’s message, or ignore their preteen skulking. Sometimes the meltdown or argument comes before we’ve even left the house, and by the time it’s feasible to set out again everything is halfway over. Sometimes we land on the side of “better late than never”; other times we decide it’s just not worth it.
Avoiding those struggles becomes a pattern. This may be our only break during the week, the best quality time as a family (let’s face it, some of us are in way better moods in the morning before we’re hungry or tired) when the adults have already wrestled the paperwork or housework or yardwork that had to get done before they jump into another week. Maybe the churches we know don’t have many kids, so music lessons, sports or another activities with peers feel like a better social outlet for our family. So we don’t make it to church.
The longer I am a parent, the more sympathy I develop for God. Christians claim to be children of God. Relating to God as our heavenly Parent is one of our deepest and most meaningful metaphors. I’d like every parent to know that the parenting you are doing is godly, whether you’ve made it to church lately or not. You are acting like, feeling and experiencing what God does in parenting us.
Dear parents, what you are doing is holy. It is painfully faithful. Yet all of us at some time find that it is too much for us to bear alone.
You know the unconditional love that makes you do what you never thought possible. You practice confession and forgiveness daily, if not hourly. You speak hard truths, and redeem what has been sold or lost or given up. You let your old life die so these new ones could be born. You endure the fear, risk and utter joy of releasing your beloved children out into the world. Your parenting is by turns delightful and exhausting, and constantly under the scrutiny of outsiders. The parenting we do either sends hope out into the world or compounds its problems. Those who act like they are gods accountable to no one in their parenting go too far, forgetting that although God is like a parent, we parents are not God.
God has been here, done this and knows it’s very, very hard work. Understanding and standing with us, God offers solidarity but also the parenting we need.
Dear parents, what you are doing is holy. It is painfully faithful. Yet all of us at some time find that it is too much for us to bear alone. Even God needed partners (i.e., Moses, Mary, Paul) in raising children of God. That’s when community can be a gift.
When you need it, please know you can turn not just to a God who gets it, but to people who know and attempt to follow this parenting God together. Sometimes we find those people in churches.