Being a parent is, I think, absolutely one of the most challenging things we can ever do. And in part that’s because there is always, always a generation gap between parents and their children. We always end up parenting in a world that’s profoundly different to the one in which we grew up. So how can we be good parents when someone’s moved the goal posts?
When I was growing up I remember feeling incredibly misunderstood by my parents. It’s not that they weren’t fantastic parents, they tried their very best and gave us all that they could, it’s just that they had ways of looking at the world that were different to mine.
Of course I didn’t entirely understand that at the time, I couldn’t quite of put it into those words but that was the reality. They came from a different culture and they grew up in a different era and surprise, surprise as though it was anything new under the sun, as a parent I’ve discovered the exact same thing albeit from a different perspective.
Bringing up children isn’t easy, that’s the truth, we love them, of course we love them but they’re different from us in so many ways. Firstly children by their very nature are immature, God gave them to loving parents because there has to be someone who loves through their immaturity and out through the other end of that.
They’re different, as I said, because they’re growing up in a different world with different priorities, different technology, different perspectives, different music and they’re different because their personalities are different to our own.
It never ceases to amaze me how children who are so closely related genetically and who grew up in the same environment can be so profoundly different and all those differences cause real tensions in families and on top of that part of growing is pushing the boundaries.
So if you have children in your life whether they be young or whether they maybe grown up how can you impact their lives in a positive way? How can you leave a legacy, a good legacy that lives on for generations to come through your children, their children and their children’s children?
That’s the power of a generational legacy; whether it be good or bad it will live on. Habits, behaviours, attitudes, faith, perspectives that we pick up in our formative years live on in us and we pass them onto our children and down they go through the generations.
It seems to me that being a fantastic parent is a blend of three things: love, discipline and our own behaviour as a role model. Without love we can’t be great parents. It’s a given that our children are going to make mistakes, they are going to fail us, they are going to dishonour us, they are going to be rude to us, they are going to do all sorts of things along the way, they just are, it’s part of growing up. Yet through all that the most important thing they need to know is that we love them. Unconditional parental love needs to be the bedrock beneath their feet.
Jesus once told a story, a parable of a son who left his father’s house, took his share of the inheritance, squandered it all on drinking and prostitutes the lot, completely dishonoured his father and yet when he fell on hard times he headed for home hoping to get a role as a servant rather than a son knowing he deserved little better.
But every day his father went out on the road to see whether his son might be coming home and when he did, listen to this, his father was filled with compassion. He ran, threw his arms around his son, kissed him, he called for the servants to bring out a robe, put a ring on his finger, sandals on his feet, he threw a party. That’s unconditional love.
Whenever our children fail, no matter how badly they fail, they need to know that we are their one safe haven in this world. But at the same time love involves discipline, it just does. A parent who doesn’t set boundaries and discipline their children isn’t making the emotional investment that the child needs to learn and to grow and to become a balanced mature adult.
God disciplines His children. Why? Because He loves us. Hebrews chapter 12:
“And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as children. ‘My child do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when he punishes you’. For the Lord disciplines those whom he loves and he chastises every child whom he accepts.”
And the greatest way of all to teach our children is through our own example, our own high standards of love and sacrifice and integrity and reliability and kindness and gentleness. Often they won’t hear the things we say to them; instead they see what we do. And the way we live our lives is the single, strongest, most lasting influence that we will ever leave with them.
The Bible is replete with role models; the greatest of all is Jesus Himself. After learning from His earthly parents, Mary and Joseph, for a good thirty years, as a child and then as a young man in the workplace, He launched into His three and a half year public ministry and chose for Himself twelve disciples.
Jewish Rabbi’s had disciples, followers, that was the custom of the day. Jesus chose twelve. A disciple, that word literally means ‘to be a learner’ and these twelve men were by and large uneducated fishermen, tax collectors and the like yet they followed Jesus around for three and a half years and learned from His example.
They saw how He treated people, how He reacted in difficult situations, what He believed, what He said, what He did. He was their role model and this relationship between this Rabbi, Jesus, and His disciples has had a huge impact down through the generations.
In the same way our children learn from us, they learn our good traits and yes, they learn our bad traits. Who you and I are as parents, how we live our lives is going to have a massive impact on our children.
You and I, we only have one life to live here on this earth but in a very real sense when we’re gone we live on through our children. That’s true genetically as they carry our genetic imprint on down through the generations and its true emotionally and spiritually as they take on our character traits, our perspective on decency and honesty and kindness and humility. Or alternatively the terrible opposites of those things.
Do you want to live a fantastic life? Do you want to have a real impact in this world? Then take this whole parenting thing seriously. I mean incredibly seriously. Your children need your unconditional love. They need to know that they are unconditionally loved and no matter how badly they fail, that you will always protect them and accept them and love them.
They need your discipline. They need you to set boundaries to teach them to grow and they need an example from you that will equip them to live their lives and pass a great example on to their children. Being a parent is so important.
I always find it interesting in revealing Himself to us God comes up with this model of the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit; three persons in one; perfect love and community and yet one God.
You and I are made in His very image, we are in small, apart from our sin, what He is in the infinite and one of the ways He chooses to reveal Himself, come on, is as God the Father, God our parent, God the one who brought us into existence and who loves us the way a fantastic parent is meant to love their children.
And Jesus the Son honoured His Father by doing His Dad’s will. Jesus the Son had a close, intimate, personal relationship with His Dad. Interestingly the Jewish nation before Jesus would never have thought of calling God Father or even more familiar ‘Abba’ which literally means dad, which is how Jesus referred to Him.
And yet here we have it, the parent/child relationship is used by God as a tangible means of revealing Himself to us. He uses a relationship that we should know something about, the relationship between a father and a son to speak of the love He has for us.
Hey that should tell us something, that should tell us how important it is, this parent/child relationship in living our lives, it should tell us the powerful impact that we can have in this world by being a fantastic parent.
This article was originally published at christianityworks.com
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