The parenting books make it all seem so simple, almost like a mathematical formula. The books lay out a simple set of steps to follow in every set of parenting circumstances. Root/fruit, circle of obedience, heart of the matter, cravings and conflicts, gospel-centered, etc. If I simply follow the steps, my children will become examples of godliness and cleanliness (which, for some odd reason is next to godliness). And I truly am grateful for books like Shepherding a Child’s Heart and all the other ones whose titles elude me at the moment.
But to be honest, many times my parenting looks very little like Shepherding a Child’s Heart and very much like a mid-80’s sitcom. For example, I’m standing in my kitchen when I hear my daughter Ella emit a witch-melting-ish scream. I take a deep breath, run through my mental parenting checklists, then go into the living room.
“Okay Ella, what is the problem?” I ask. Ella is laying in a pitiful heap on the ground, angry tears pouring down her face, creating a tear/snot mixture.
“Charis took all the stars!” she screams. I have no idea what she is talking about. Her and Charis are watching Dora the Explorer (or “Dora the Devil Spawn” as I prefer to call it), and from my limited observations, there are no stars to be found anywhere in the living room. There are Barbies, Polly Pockets, 80 kajillion Polly Pocket accessories, plastic food, and books, but certainly no stars.
“What?” I ask, thoroughly confused.
Charis chimes in. “There were stars on Dora and we had to catch them. I caught them all before Ella could catch any.” Ah. I see. Charis caught all the pretend stars and would not allow her little sister to catch the pretend stars. This fits right in with that fantastic parenting book The Lord of the Flies.
I run my current situation through the parenting matrix. Charis obviously needs to…What it comes down to is that Ella is craving…If they both want to be in the circle of God’s favor they must…nothing. I blank. I can’t come up with any good answers. All of my biblical strategies go out the window, and all I manage to say is, “Ella, please don’t scream at your sister.”
It’s in these situations that I’m reminded that my parenting must be 100% reliant upon Jesus. Yes, I am called to raise my children in the fear and instruction of the Lord. Yes, I’m called to teach them the gospel. Yes, I’m called to bring appropriate discipline into their lives. But ultimately, I only plant seeds. The Lord must be the one to save my children. He must be the one to cause them to be born again. I cannot do it. I cannot be the Holy Spirit.
Does God use my efforts? Of course. But is the salvation of my children ultimately dependent on my efforts? Thankfully not. I do the sowing, he does the saving. My sowing may feel like insanity most of the time, but that’s okay. He uses the weak to shame the strong. He uses the foolish to bring low the proud. And he uses the insanity of my parenting to prove that he is faithful in spite of my weakness.
I’ll keep reading the parenting books. I’ll keep trying to shepherd my children. But more than anything, I’m going to pray my butt off that Jesus does his mighty saving work in my children. I’m confident he will.