Wednesday, 2 October 2013
A Parent’s Worst Enemies
What do you think are a parent’s worst enemies?
I was thinking about that recently. Our kids are grown, but when I look around at my friends, I see lots of candidates for Parenting Enemy #1. And #2, 3, 4, 5. Materialism. Social Media Obsession. Peer Group Influence. Too Many Activities. Too Much Free Time. Substance Abuse. Depression…
In fact it seems parents are surrounded by enemies as they try to raise their children. Sometimes we even think our kids are at the top of the list!
Parenting is not only hard work, it’s full of worry about the dangers that surround us. But the biggest enemies are within.
A parent’s worst enemies are our own fears, guilt, and shame. Why? Because we do our worst parenting when we speak or act from fear. Guilt. Shame.
I call this the “Oh no! I’m a terrible parent!” form of parenting. My husband and I know about it first hand.
When our youngest child struggled during her teen years, we were tempted to panic. The more she withdrew from us, the more our fears multiplied. How did this happen? Where will it end? Will she run away from home? Renounce her faith? What can we do? We wanted to throw up all kinds of barricades for her protection.
We also felt guilty, because we knew we had let her down. We had gone through a time of loss in our ministry and had been distracted by our own needs. We hadn’t even noticed she was withdrawing from us because we were busy licking our wounds. We were strongly tempted to atone for our sins of parenting by reactivating our efforts.
On top of that we felt ashamed of our parenting failure. What would people think of us? Would we be disqualified from pastoral ministry? We wanted to cover our shame and prove that we really were good parents. We wanted to fix our failure by fixing our daughter.
The “Oh no!” form of parenting turned out to be all about us.
A Parent’s Best Friend
Jesus knows about our sins and failures–past, present, and future. Just like he knew about the sins and failures of his disciples.
Listen to what he told them as he walked with them to the Garden of Gethsemane. I can imagine him pausing along the way.
See that vineyard? That’s a picture of you and me. I’m the vine. You are the branches. Can you see where one ends and the other begins? No, you can’t. They’re organically connected. Life flows from the vine into the branches.
You are connected to me like that. Why? Because of the word I’ve spoken to you. The word about the cross. The cross I’m walking toward right now. My work there will connect you to me forever. Your failures aren’t the last word. My word is.
He wanted them to know that now, so that later when they denied him, abandoned him, deserted him, they would remember it. Their failures are not the last word. His word of the cross is. His word of love is.
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. John 15:9
Knowing the love of God in Christ for ourselves. That’s a parent’s best friend.
Parenting From the Love of God
The funny thing is, when we parent from God’s love instead of from our fears, guilt, and shame, it doesn’t look that different. We still make rules, set boundaries, bring appropriate discipline.
But it feels different. To us. To our kids. Loved, we are able to love. And they know it.
What are you struggling with as a parent right now? I’d love to hear about it.