I never thought much about parenting before I had kids.
Granted, I thought about my parents, since I was their kid. I thought about my friends’ parents, since I saw them often. What they allowed compared to my folks. Who was fair or not fair? Did they laugh a lot? Yell? Were they old? Young? Laid back? Tense?
My thinking about parenting had more to do with how it affected me than anything else.
Now that the tables are turned and I am the parent, I think about the whole subject of parenting a lot more. The more I think about it, the more I realize it is training ground. Training our kids to learn and lean into God.
The parenting topic arose, as it often does, with a friend in the same boat. The parenting boat. That boat that keeps sailing as we keep fighting the to control the rudder.
“It’s funny,” she said. “We thought we could ‘plan’ our family. And that parenting would be so rewarding. Cute outfits. Sweet artwork. Cheering from the stands at a baseball game. Birds singing. … And yet here I sit. Our family looks different than we thought it would. And we doubt ourselves every day. Then wallow in our inconsistencies and beat ourselves up.”
Obedience was our topic du jour. So she continued. “And we want – maybe even need for our kids to be perfect. So we stress obedience. And we spin it in the light of perfection. Obey to be good.”
What is it about obedience? Why is obeying so important? It’s a theme we see often in Scripture. In the NIV, the word obedience shows up 223 times. And apparently, “to obey is better than sacrifice.” (1 Samuel 15:22) - which is saying a lot. (See also: the book of Leviticus.)
But we get mixed up about just what/who we are to be obedient to – and why. The world’s standard is that obedience = perfection. If I do x, y & z…then I’m good. This obedience for perfection thing is a prison, the ultimate in shackles. It matches perfection to works rather than love.
As I think about it, I’m convinced God wants us to obey not to be perfect, but in order to increase our faith. To obey his commands is to remain in his love. And to trust him. In fact, I must trust him to obey. I must believe him in order to obey. Which leads directly to faith, being sure of what I hope for and certain about what I don’t see. (Hebrews 11:1-2)
Perfection with God is only attained through the grace-filled sacrifice of the One and only One who is perfect. How beautiful to rest and abide in that perfection as we walk less than stellar days on this earth! Soak in his love, swim in his grace, marinate in his Word.
And what a beautiful thing to teach and train our kids as we navigate the obedience road with them. Encouraging them to trust us when we tell them, “Hey, walking in that street … not a good idea. Consequences on the other side of that one, Bud.”
Can my child trust me? Only so far. But I can train them in obedience. I can teach them to listen to someone other than themselves … even when they want so badly to go against authority. I can train them so they can taste obedience.
Then maybe they will lean into obeying their heavenly father in whom all trust safely lands.
Kay Wills Wyma is the author of Cleaning House: A Mom’s Twelve-Month Experiment to Rid He Home of Youth Entitlement, available in the FullFill Store. She blogs at themoatblog.com.