Family Matters Part 2: Parenting Is Not For Cowards

I still remember those first, now familiar words, “Honey, I think I’m pregnant.” We were being obedient to God’s command of being “fruitful and multiplying,” which now meant our family was no longer going to be just two of us. Those first nine months were challenging for both of us - my wife being pregnant and me learning to live with a pregnant lady. Our menu during that time was interesting to say the least. There is only so much pizza and El Pollo Loco a guy can eat several nights a week. I remember entering this new phase of life with fear and trepidation. We were just getting comfortable being married, and now I am going to be a dad? Me, a dad? When the day finally arrived for us to head to the hospital, I remember wondering what the day would hold. My first thought was, “I can finally excuse speeding on the freeway because my wife is having a baby.” When our son was born after many hours of labor, I learned two things, my key role was to be there for my wife to help her through childbirth, and I should be very careful not to get too close to her during her contractions. I knew if she grabbed me, I would be a goner. Well… I wasn’t paying attention, and she got me in a headlock to help her through the next one. I’m still not sure about that Lamaze technique. I remember tearing up when I saw my firstborn son. What an amazing experience to see a new life! What great joy God has given us to have children together – what a gift!

As we left the hospital, we were handed a gift bag. It had a little beanie, a miniature diaper, baby powder, and a miniature blue shirt. For some reason, our baby didn’t come with any instruction manual. My first thought was, “Now what are we supposed to do with this little guy?” It took me some time to figure out how the car seat thing worked, and then we were headed home. Looking back, we have gone through this same dance six times – each one unique. One time we never made it to the hospital. I played Jonny Bench and caught my third son out of the chute in our master bedroom. (We still went in an ambulance to the hospital after our home birth. They charged us for double occupancy because Linda was holding the baby. They paid me nothing for my delivering the baby. Instead they handed me a bill.) Looking back, we wouldn’t trade one moment of what we have experienced. What a picture of our new birth in Christ.

Parenting children is a huge responsibility and can be intimidating to anyone. Every child God blesses us with has a unique personality. I believe most Christian parents really want to raise their kids rightly, and don’t want to mess their children up. And yet, what they do from the day the child is born directly effects the end result. It is a full-time job, not part-time summer employment. Although we have a short window of time with our kids before they head out on their own, it comes with a lifetime of responsibility. It should keep us on our knees. It is the greatest task any adult can experience caring for another little life. Parents have a profound role to impact their child and children’s children for generations. How we go about nurturing and training our kids will set the tone in our homes and influence them for the rest of their lives - for good or bad. The early years are so important because they shape the latter years. From the day they are born, we begin training them to leave us. What they gain during the limited time they are under our care and the skills they take with them are crucial to what they will become for the rest of their lives. Once a parent has a child, it forever changes their status. I will always be my children’s father from the moment they are born to the day I die. My responsibility may change when they leave my home and begin their own family with their spouses with their own children, but my role in their life will remain a constant.

J.C. Ryle said, “(God) gives your children a mind that will receive impressions like moist clay. He gives them a disposition at the starting point of life to believe what you tell them and to take for granted what you advise them, and to trust your word rather than a stranger’s. He gives you, in short, a golden opportunity of doing them good. See that the opportunity be not neglected and thrown away. Once let slip, it is gone forever.” (The Duties Of Parenting, p. 7)

 Biblical parenting is superior to any social or psychological model for raising kids. It is based on Absolute Truth which never changes in the midst of passing social fads. 2 Peter 1:3 affirms that the Word of God is sufficient as it states, “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” We as Christian parents must be committed to being obedient to the authority of God’s Word. I am amazed at the clarity and volume of biblical principles on parenting. God has given us guidelines in Scripture on how we can bring up children to please Him in a way that brings great blessing. No one has the perfect marriage or perfect family. That is a myth. But we can have a great marriage and a great family if we are obedient to God’s truth. Guaranteed! God never lies. He designed marriage and the family from the beginning.

Each child God has gifted us with is unique in their physical frame, body coordination, temperament, tolerances, mental capacity, emotions, temptations, interests, and abilities. We need to come to each one differently, yet treat them with equal love, value, and worth. Don’t come to them as if they are the same. They are not. Our girls are not like our boys. Birth order does effect things, but does not determine who they ultimately are. Approach them as unique image bearers of our Creator, each made in a special way for His glory.

I think God gives us children to show us all the work He still has to do in our own hearts as parents. I thought I was basically a good person, until I had kids. I thought I was a calm, rational human being, until I had a little one who looks just like me, and who brought out my character flaws which I needed to work on. I began to realize that, before I had kids, I could communicate clearly. But once I had children, I began to say irrational things in complete frustration that made absolutely no logical sense. Those times revealed how my kids could affect me, or more truthfully, exposed what I really had in my sinful heart. God gives us children to keep us humble, and cause us to completely depend on Him for how to raise those little ones. They sometimes may drive us crazy, but at other times, are our greatest joy. God gives us kids for our own sanctification, which ultimately causes in us a greater maturing in Christ, by His design.

We should order our homes in such a way that we are testimonies to our Lord Jesus Christ and those around us witness truth in action. Our family should be light in a dark world and their exemplary life will give us a platform to share Jesus with our neighbors. Has knowing Christ made any difference in how you come to parenting? What do people see in your family? Does your family draw them toward Christ or move them away? Are you a stepping stone or stumbling block?

 Peter said in 2 Peter 1:12,13, “Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them and have been established in the truth which is present with you.” Peter went on to say he was hoping “to stir up their minds by way of reminder.” Many of the Biblical passages and principles I will address in future blogs may be familiar to you in your Bible reading and church life, but putting into practice in your own family what you have heard, is where the rubber meets the road. James 1:22 says, “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” That is the purpose of this blog, to present the reader a general biblical guide to parenting so that, if it is put into practice, you will be able to say one day, “I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth” (3 John 1:4); and “the father of the righteous will greatly rejoice and he who begets a wise son (or daughter) will be glad in (them). Let your father and your mother be glad, and let her rejoice who gave birth to you” (Proverbs 23:24, 25). I wouldn’t trade anything in the world for my wife and kids! It is the only thing, next to knowing Christ, that really matters in this life, and is the legacy that will outlast me for generations to come. My marriage and my children are my greatest joy!

Dale Payne

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