Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”
Matthew 4:8-10 NIV
Last week I shared my intro to the Gentle Parenting debate. Much simplified, I didn’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water by dismissing the four tenets of this parenting style and forgetting that God was the originator of them:
My concern was that if our pendulum swings too far in an effort to polarize ourselves from an unfounded parenting style, we could convince ourselves Christian parenting should be devoid of these character qualities, or worse yet, convince our unbelieving mom friends the same. By defining these terms, I intend to reframe what has been stolen by the enemy. With the greatest desire to tear apart the nuclear family, our enemy threatens our parenting and comes to pillage our children’s future. Diving head first into any parenting that doesn’t start with the word of God or avoiding what we don’t understand are two ways I believe the enemy begins to pick at our family’s fortresses. As part one of this two-part devotion, I teased five responses to this gentle parenting question last week. So if you missed it, you can catch up with the conversation by reading Part One here.
Any certified or degreed counselor will agree that parents have a natural tendency to parent out of their own “I hated how my parents handled that” experiences. But, the last thing we all want to do is parent experientially, leaving our children with the law, emptiness God never intended, or a handful of questions and their own lists as adults.
While the Bible is not a parenting book, it’s neither a science or history book either, yet new discoveries, old repetitions, and earnest facts are continually supported by Scripture. It’s like every time we unearth something, it was in the pages of God’s story to us all along. Much like speaking in parables, He is constantly bringing clarity to what He already indicated. So, I simply intend to share five revelations that should buffer our parenting. Like the bumpers on our toddler’s bowling alley lanes, these guide our parenting. We could be no more rigid in rearing children than if there were 5 steps to throwing the perfect party. Just like every event is different, so is every child. There is no "one way" outside the handful of fundamentals in Scripture. If we had all these answers, we would have no need for the Holy Spirit. Called the Comforter and the Helper, we would miss relationship if there existed only one way to parent…because rules, the law, by its very nature removes our dependence on God (2 Cor 1:9). If we knew how to do everything, we would never turn to our Savior (2 Cor 12:10). Thank goodness that in God’s perfect plan, our lack or ignorance is always a flashing arrow pointing back to Him for understanding:
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
Always avoiding reading into Scripture (eisegesis), but rather curious about what I can pull out (exegesis), here are five parenting buffers that balance the Gentle Parenting movement’s pure parts with the reality that all good things were created first by God. And, while I would love to deeply dive into the two handfuls of passages that specifically speak to parenting, it may wind up more like a book than a devotional. So, I have listed these references in hopes that it will spark your own study.
The purpose of all discipline is to draw children back to the heart of God. Thus, relationship with our children and intentionally creating room for them to cultivate one with God is always the aim of discipline as laid out in Scripture.
As a former teacher, I have heard it all. I have heard of parents using military style squats against a wall, total passivity in an effort to support, limiting food, grounding, cutting their own switch, full allowance of all indulgences, locking in closets, anxious-ambivalent parents who construct a moving target, negligence… If discipline is the result of not obeying, we have to start with what and how to teach. In Deuteronomy six, discipleship always comes about via relationship; both between the child and us and ultimately, the child and God. This too should be our aim in discipline; to bring our children’s hearts back to God.
When Moses describes how we should invest in our children (when we “eat, sit, walk along the road”) the context is to an Isrealite people who lived nomadically. They would have understood, just like we can, that our presence in our children’s lives should be dependable, consistent, and intentional, and that during those relational times, we are always pointing our children back to the absolutes of Scripture and the full and free life of living for Jesus.
2. Our parenting should not be the surresponse to a parenting model, but a response to God’s parenting advice in Scripture.
A surresponse is common language used in litigation - it is almost like a “rebuttal”. I am driving at 2 Timothy 2:4 . If I spend our time refuting GP to an audience that most likely knows Jesus, it is like being a soldier getting involved in civilian affairs. Defending our faith and having an answer when asked? Yes. Spending our time together dissecting, debating, or discussing a parenting style that does not begin with God’s word as its foundation to begin with? No. I instead want to use our time diving into God’s word, discovering what God says about Himself, you and I in light of this, and then applying it to our parenting. Finally, we can reach out and take other moms on that journey. But, for “apologetics” or preparedness sake, it appears what GP has right is “borrowed” from Scripture anyway, beginning with “treating others how you would want to be treated.” Its method or definition may be skewed, but it’s still Luke 6:31-36!
3. No routine, five-step process, guide, or teaching will supplant the authority of God’s word and the Holy Spirit’s promise to guide us in disciplining each temperament, discipling through each situation, and guiding through each infraction.
I don’t know that I can ever be convinced that there are more than a few handfuls of absolutes in Scripture that pertain specifically to children (see #5), with God taking a majority of His word to address how we as Believers should interact with all humanity. This is truly interesting. If I am called to show empathy, respect, understanding, and boundaries, along with love, joy, peace, patience, and the list of other righteous actions Jesus’ displayed for us, does God limit these to be committed towards adults only? I would say “no”.
We pray the line “thy kingdom come” and it seems there will be no age as we know it in heaven (since time as we know it was created). While none of us can be certain, there is curiosity that the kingdom mindset means children should receive the same dignity as adults, if for nothing else, based on Matthew 19. Here, Jesus is just wrapping the description of God’s design for family when he goes on to rebuke some disciples for not allowing him to minister to the children.
13 Then the people brought their little children to Jesus so that he could put his hands on them and pray for them. When his followers saw this, they told the people to stop bringing their children to Jesus. 14 But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me. Don’t stop them, because the kingdom of heaven belongs to people who are like these children.” 15 After Jesus put his hands on the children, he left there.
It’s probably about now when you are in agreement that this bird’s eye view leaves you hungry for more than a devotional and maybe a full book. But, this short op ed is to initiate your own reasoning, prayer time, and reading. Having said this, I would start by defining the terms above in light of Scripture.
Empathy - I Corinthians 12:26
Respect - Philippians 2:3
Understanding - Proverbs 18:12
Boundaries - Galatians 6:5
Having read these verses, go back through the list and ask the Lord 1) in what ways you do/don’t express these? 2) If you need to repent like I had to on a few, then do. 3) And, then ask Him how you can start to express these best towards your children.
4. As parents, Scripture says it is our love that should motivate our discipline and discipleship.
Beginning with the simplest of verses we memorized, God gave His own son Jesus for us (John 3:16). I cannot think of a greater love than a father who would give their only child, their firstborn, to save people who were still in sin (Romans 5:8). It amazes me. This is probably the greatest definition of love.
As we are Jesus’ brothers and sisters, children of the most high God, and fellow heirs (Romans 8:17), we are recipients of this great love…as children. But, God is balanced with consequences for our sins that step outside of the loving plan God has for our lives (Galatians 6:7-8). However, we recognize that any pain caused by our sin is self-inflicted, not God-inflicted. This is a weighty concept; one that we are assured of because God defines love in I Corinthians as well as I John 4:18. Read a few commentaries on “Love is patient, love is kind…” and “There is no fear in love…” Jot down what you discover.
5. We will never be perfect parents, which is why relationship with Jesus, both ours and our children’s, is crucial.
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
No one ever says, “I want to be a bad mom”. But, anyone who has raised a child knows there are days when your flesh, your fatigue, or your frustrations rise up. However, there is only one way to truly be a good mom: we believe the verses in #4 and accept Jesus as our Savior, therefore indwelling us with the Holy Spirit who gives us insight, discernment, and guidance.
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
Why is having relationship with the Holy Spirit so crucial? Because you could never parent well without Him. Never. And while I wish it were simple and I could answer the questions that emerge from this argument like, “Amanda, do you spank” or “Amanda, do you let things slide”, the answer is “yes and no” and “yes and no”. And, if you get nothing else, this is why. Our Bibles were never meant to be rule books, but “relationship” books that are only activated well with the Holy Spirit inside us. Like those special blue and red paper glasses free with our 3-D books, we can make the words out ok, but reading through those is an entirely new experience. If you are on the fence about whether or not we can parent with God’s word alone, let's look at Proverbs 26:45.
4 Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
or you yourself will be just like him.
5 Answer a fool according to his folly,
or he will be wise in his own eyes.
How would you ever know what to do in the face of a fool!? You couldn’t. Furthermore, the Bible appears contradictory…unless you understand this in the context of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit being what aids us in every situation. Two situations, one Holy Spirit, guiding us into a right choice.
The reality is that foolishness is bound in the heart of our children - from the minute they are born (Proverbs 22:15). You are their teacher, their parent, their protector; but you could never know what to do unless God’s intention was for you to parent alongside the Holy Spirit, leaning on Him in all situations outside of the absolutes. He shows us when to laugh, when to ignore, when and if to spank with a rod, when to talk, when to listen, but ultimately, how to parent in the example of the best parent, a heavenly Father.
A great resource is my friend Monica Sotolongo’s book, Parenting With Holy Spirit.
Your fellow Able Mom,
Dear Jesus, let our hearts be filled with what fills your heart. Let us see our children as people and minister to them the same way you call us to respectfully minister to others. Let us never parent apart from you, using the wisdom that begins with respecting you and perception that longs to hear your Holy Spirit along the way.
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