Simple Parenting

Simple Parenting

by Dr. Curt Brannan

It is impossible to escape the awesome and often overwhelming sense of responsibility that comes with being a parent! Before this responsibility comes to us we have some fairly concrete opinions about how the job of raising children is done. I can’t imagine how many of us have said at some point, “No child of mine will ever be allowed to do that!” And then one day, reality strikes a blow for humility.

Actually, most people I have known take up this responsibility with a growing sense of fear, even trepidation, as they begin to understand the magnitude of the task ahead. And, it doesn’t seem to get easier as the child gets older!

I ran across the following paragraph on a blog with the title “I Think Parenting Is the Most Difficult Job.” It almost certainly expresses some uncertainties, doubts and questions many of us have felt.

 “Right when I’m getting the hang of things and trying to find a balance between my child’s personality and my own expectations he goes and changes on me and I have to start all over again discovering him while trying to hold on to my beliefs and certain standards. I always feel at conflict and I really don’t know what to do about it. I want to be friendly and loving with my child but I also want him to respect me and acknowledge me as some sort of authority. I want my child to be healthy and eat all the nutritious organic foods yet I also want him to be a child and eat candy and ice cream and all the things you don’t get to eat once you’re an adult and realize their nutritional values. I want him to be adventurous and take risks but I’m deathly afraid of having him get hurt.”

But must parenting be that overwhelming?  I am not suggesting it may not be difficult, even “hard” at times – almost every human relationship is. But is it true, as this woman implies, that a parent must be omniscient – able to “know” not only the present moment but to hold together the past and future as well, always making the right call?  Is it necessary to live “at conflict” with our standards and beliefs? Can a parent really protect a child from everything that might “get him hurt?”  What is implied would require a level of knowing that belongs to God alone.

Over the years I have been privileged to know many wonderful families.  I have yet to meet one who always did it right! I have watched as great parents found themselves dealing with problem children and as problem parents experienced the joy of having great children.  Even if it were possible to always do it absolutely right, a parent can never insure a child’s future simply because the child, like mom and dad, is finally responsible for his or her life before God.

Here I would suggest a single biblical principle that I believe is critical to parenting – what I would like to call “simple parenting.”  It’s this: Abide in Christ!

When Jesus spoke of the vine and branches in John 15, He was talking about parenting just as surely as he was talking about preaching, teaching, helping or any other life responsibility to which God calls someone. He was clear; “Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” This is, I believe, the central issue in being a good parent. No one can know all they need to know – only God is omniscient.  No one has the strength to always protect and care for another –God alone is omnipotent!  No one can be with them every moment of the day to ensure good decisions and choices – only God is omnipresent. So before all else parenting is about abiding!

I recently heard a man say, “It isn’t what we say or do, it is what we are that will be remembered.” Nowhere is this truer than in parenting. It is not what we “say” to our children or even “do for” them that will make us good parents. It’s what we are – being God centered moms and dads who trust Him for the wisdom and strength to do the impossible task of being a parent. It’s before all else living the “standards” we hold before them and loving them with that love that holds them accountable even as it stands ready to forgive and care for them.   It’s abiding and trusting Him to work the miracle of His grace in their lives as He has ours.

In his second letter to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul shares his fear. It isn’t fear that the Corinthians wouldn’t go to church or say nice things about God. His fear was that they would be “led astray” from “single-minded (simple) and sincere devotion to Christ.”  (2 Cor. 11:3) “Led astray,” that is, by thinking that somehow it is possible to replace God with our own knowledge and strength rather than “abiding” in Him. It didn’t work in the garden, and it won’t for us as parents.

Simple parenting is simply this: being the dad or mom that God calls us to be. It is when our children are loved by parents who hold a single-minded commitment to abide in Him that they will know they are cared for and loved. This love disciplines, holds them accountable, and even makes serious demands on their lives, but it’s real. It’s the kind of loving care that gives itself for their best and flows from God Himself.