By Patrick Showers, Associate Elementary Pastor
Woodland Hills Church
The ups and downs of parenting can have the same effect as being car sick. For those of you who haven’t experienced this particular side effect, let me assure you that feeling nauseated to the point of… well you know, isn’t a picnic. Parenting can be like that sometimes. Family life seems to be going along smoothly when all of the sudden you’re trapped in the house with kids from The Lord of Flies. At such times, dealing with negative behaviors seems to dominate my attention and my focus. Phrases such as, “Stop that”, “put that down”, “take a time out”, or “now you did it” are all that come out of my mouth for days at a time. I find myself caught in a cycle of grumpiness and am at a loss for how to help my kids see life through the lens of Christ’s love.
After experiencing this pattern recently, I realized my energy was misplaced. I was so focused on the negative behaviors, I had missed the bigger picture. I forgot about my primary calling as a parent, which should not be about targeting the fruit of my kids’ behaviors but the root. I placed my full attention on judging their actions and forgot to search for the sources of these behaviors. I also realized I was doing the same to myself. I had somehow internalized that I was failing as a parent if my kids were misbehaving, so I had all my attention on trying to problem solve the behaviors that popped up, like playing a game of Whack a Mole. Fortunately, the Holy Spirit revealed my misguided approach and reminded me how God had showed me love when I hadn’t deserve it and how He had applied mercy instead of consequence. Once again, I had missed that whole faith and love part of following God in my parenting. When I realized how much I loved God for not condemning me but instead lovingly helping and equipping me to be more like Him, I was truly convicted about my behavior as a parent. Being a good parent really begins with modeling my faith in Jesus through God’s transforming love working in my life and through my parenting.
Being imperfect as a parent actually opens the door for kids to be free from the tyranny of living up to unachievable expectations and, instead, points them directly to God. Without the help of the Holy Spirit, any person, child or adult, would fail miserably, but through His help, we begin to bear fruit that reflects God. My favorite of all the fruits mentioned in Galatians 5 is self-control. So, I’m eager to change my focus from behaviors, towards showing my kids an authentic faith marked with flaws but full of love. Authentic faith is centered on being open about our failings, accepting others where they are at, training them, encouraging them, and cheering for them when they get it right.