I grew up in a single-parent home after my parents separated because my Dad was caught having an affair with a co-worker. My early years were full of questions posed to my mother: Why doesn’t dad come to field-day with me at school? Does dad love me? Why did he leave if he loved me?
My mother raised us with prayer, love, encouragement, discipline, and constantly pointed us to God as our true Father. I could not imagine or have conceived of a better parent to step up and try to fill that void. Nevertheless, there were things she was not able to provide…things she was never meant to provide.
So, for me, there were few things that were more intimidating than the prospect of becoming a Father, a parent, and taking on the responsibility of raising a child. There seemed to be so many unknowns in parenting. On top of that, I didn’t even have friends to turn to for advice as most of my peers (Millennials) had parents who divorced at an early stage in marriage, were raised by single mothers like me, and had fathers that were absent or distant at best.
Here’s where I found myself: a plethora of examples I desperately wanted to avoid, very few parents I actually admired whom I could approach to ask for wisdom, guidance, and direction, and most of my peers were in that same “boat” with me and were just as confused.
All that amidst a post-modern culture which basically told me “You are your own god. Decide for yourself what is good, true, and beautiful. Don’t trust anyone that tells you that you’re wrong for any reason except for believing someone can be wrong about something.” It felt like no one really had any concrete truth or answers to help me.
I know my story is not unique. Countless young men and women find themselves in the same circumstances and, not surprisingly, confusion in parenting abounds. What’s even more surprising to me is confusion abounds even among a vast majority of christians, believers in Jesus, who often call God their “Father.”
We seem to call him “Father” in name only and don’t actually look to His scriptures, to His church, and to Him for guidance on how to parent. Instead, we’ve jettisoned its authority over our parenting and a vast majority of christians ascribe to the belief that the Bible really doesn’t say much about parenting. Many of us then look to our culture as if that’s the one topic they’ve got totally right and can be trusted to handle.
We’ve not been dependent on God for parenting as we are in so many other areas of our lives. This may be an overused saying, but “nature abhors a vacuum” and there is no denying, in the area of parenting, Millennials and Gen X folks are dealing with just that: a vacuum of discipline, authority, biblical parenting values, parental correction and instruction, and identity all of which is normally imparted by parents.
My burden and my desire for you, and myself, is this: you would know, trust, believe, and be encouraged that you have a good Father, even if you didn’t have a good father.
My real Father, God, never left. Rather, He was there EVERY moment, every day, every hour, every step of the way bandaging the emotional and spiritual wounds that my biological father left. He was there speaking identity over me. He was actively providing father figures in my life through the church. Men like my older brothers, Nick & Matt, and men like Travis, Keith, Jeremy, Erik, Zach, and Mark just to name a few.
If you feel that you’re parenting your children in a vacuum, know that your heavenly Father is there ready and waiting to fill it. Know that your true Father is there for you with unsearchable wisdom, boundless love and encouragement, and provides earthly spiritual fathers and mothers in His church to listen, to encourage, and to help. He’s provided you the Church for a reason.
Here are a few practical ways to embrace parenting with God, our Father, through the church:
1. Pray for men & women, fathers and mothers, to come alongside you and partner with you in the journey of parenthood.
God has given you men and women in your life to look up to, whose interaction with their children looks different, in which you see something compelling. Men and women who are raising their children according to the “discipline and instruction of the Lord” and who are teaching their young children the importance of obedience and to “honor your father and mother” as scripture tells us.
One of my greatest desires for my 2 year old daughter is she would learn to honor & obey God. The primary way she’s meant to learn this is by learning to honor and obey Mommy & Daddy. Her early years now are like a practice run for real life
2. Let your prayers for parenting mentors move you to action!
Do not wait to humble yourself and reach out for help and wisdom in this parenting endeavor. If you’re praying for mentors in parenting and you see a Godly couple whose parenting you look up to...ASK THEM to help you! Invite them to speak into your lives regarding parenting. Parenting is often a sensitive topic, as many of you know, so people will usually not offer up advice or help if you’ve not given them permission to do so.
Don’t wait until your children are teenagers to do this. If they’re already teenagers, it is NEVER too late to seek wisdom from God and your community and start doing things differently…the task will be harder but God specializes in doing the impossible, in case you forgot :-)
3. Know that you’re not perfect like God...so BREATHE...and remember to receive God’s grace in view of your children.
Our joy and duty as parents is to, by our parenting, model who God is to them. To teach our children and show them that disobeying God leads to death, unhappiness, confusion, and to a deep lack of peace and identity. To teach and show them that their heavenly Father is kind and understanding, forgiving and patient. That He loves them more than they could ever imagine, speaks identity over them constantly, is strong and wise, is always there for them, and disciplines them because He loves them, not in spite of His love for them.
More accurately, I get to do that very, very imperfectly! However, because I’m imperfect and am not God, I have the opportunity to model to her what humility, repentance, and asking for forgiveness looks like. I get to demonstrate what submitting to God and his authority in my life looks like. I get to model for her devotion to God and what life lived in relationship with Him looks like. What a privilege! What a joy!
Lord willing, my daughter will see and know that even though her Daddy didn’t have a good father, her Daddy became a good father with God’s help through His Holy Spirit, His scripture, and His Church.
God is your good Father and He will teach you how to be like Him.
“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” - 2 Peter 1:3-6