My wife and I recently conducted a rather convicting parenting exercise. We collected a list of some of the phrases we say to our children and attempted to picture Jesus speaking those same words to us. We quickly realized that some of the words spewing out of our mouths would never be found on the lips of our Lord and Savior. Here’s some of our highlights/lowlights (let me know if you can relate to any of these):
“I don’t respond to whining.” (Often accompanied by “ask like a man” when talking to my son).
I can just see Him now, throwing His hand up in my face as I cry out in desperate need, “Stop whining, and speak like a man, Nick.” Yikes. While we are to “do everything without grumbling or arguing” (Philippians 2:14 NIV), God does invite us to lay our worries before Him. In fact, He wants you to bring your concerns to Him. “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” – 1 Peter 5:7 NIV.
Note the distinction here between grumbling and anxiety. In 1 Corinthians 10:10, Paul refers to the grumbling of the Israelites in the desert using the Greek word “gogguzó” – meaning “murmur, grumble (generally of smoldering discontent).” Contrast this with the Greek word “merimna” in 1 Peter 5:7 – meaning “care, worry, anxiety.” Consider also the many lamenting Psalms that beseech God with their complaints in an appropriate manner of prayer. For further reading on “complaining to God” check out this article: http://matthewsleonard.com/is-it-okay-to-complain-to-god/.
“You’re a big boy/girl, do it yourself.”
Imagine God saying, “Why do you need My help? You’re a big Christian now, do it yourself.” I think some people may have the false perception that God does take that stance due to the often misquoted “God helps those who help themselves.” Not only is that not in the bible, but also it is contradictory to what Scripture teaches. Jesus wants us to depend on Him – not do things by ourselves. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” – John 15:5 NIV.
Just as my toddlers are in a constant state of need, so am I utterly dependent on my Father’s help. Whereas I consider my necessities more complex then needing a diaper change and/or finding a lost toy/sippy cup/pacifier in the middle of the night, my children probably share a similar sensation of being completely overwhelmed and helpless to address their problems. Thankfully, God promises to be there to help us through the hard times – even if it doesn’t look quite like what we expected. “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10 NIV.
“Daddy needs some space.”
This is a polite way of telling my kids to leave me the heck alone. This statement typically emerges when my three year old asks “why” for the millionth time that day – or when I am lying down on the ground in exhaustion with my three kids literally jumping up and down on my head. God, however, doesn’t need “space”. He doesn’t ask for a “Daddy break”. Instead, Jesus is constantly beckoning us towards a closer relationship with him. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28 NIV.
Pretty sure if Jesus said some of the things I say to my children to me it would crush me into a tiny little heap on the ground. But that’s not usually the first thing that runs through your mind when you’re a sleep deprived parent with a three year old, a two year old, and a one year old clinging to your legs while screaming/whining/persistently asking random questions/all the above.
The fact is, parenting is hard. Really, really hard. Or as my wife would say, “parenting is the perfect opportunity to practice grace.” As hard as we try, we will certainly fail at times – and that’s where it is helpful to remember the following:
1. “Jesus paid the penalty for every moment when you fail as a parent.” (Parenting, Paul David Tripp)
2. “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8 NIV)
Clearly I have some spiritual maturing to do in the realm of parenting. It gently convicts and humbles me to admit this – evidence of God nudging me with His (far better) act of parenting.
Ultimately, I know that no matter how many parenting books I read, I cannot be the father I am called to be without the purifying work of the Holy Spirit. That is just one of the countless reasons that I am thankful for being adopted by the perfect Father in heaven.
“But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.” – John 1:12 NLT
Pray for me.
-Nicolas C. Day