The Heart of Christian Parenting
by Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur
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There comes a moment in the life of every Christian parent when he or she realizes that the job of parenting is too big to do without God's help. For me, that moment came a mere 15 hours after my first child's birth as I paced the floor of my hospital room in the middle of the night with a screaming baby who would not nurse and would not sleep. In desperation, I turned to God in prayer. God has heard a great deal from me since thing regarding my children!
In becoming parents we are given a tremendous gift, a child full of mystery and wonder, created by God to do His will. This is, in fact, God's child, whom he entrusts to our care. What an awesome responsibility! What an incredible challenge!
In the midst of daily living, however, we sometimes lose sight of the wonder. It's easy to forget we are serving God as we change a dirty diaper, nurse a sick child, and clean up the inevitable messes. It can be difficult to see God in our child as he throws himself on the floor in a two-year old tantrum or she slams the door in the heat of teenage rebellion. If we pay attention, however, there are moments that make us catch our breath and sit up and take notice: the first time a baby really smiles at you, or extends her arms and says "Mama" or "Dada," curling up with a four-year old reading story after story, watching your child score a goal in soccer or get a hit in baseball, seeing the light go off in a child's brain as he finally figures out how to do something he has struggled with. Life is full of opportunities to see God's presence in both our own and our children's lives.
Parenting humbles us. If ever there was a time in life when we thought that we knew it all, it becomes a distant memory when faced with the challenge of a child. There are so many variables and developmental changes. The moment we feel comfortable in our parenting skills or have settled into a routine, our child changes and our parenting must change right along with him. Parenting techniques that worked so well with one child can be of limited value when attempted with a different child. God gives us our children, but only He holds the instruction manual! God knows our children better than we ever will. It is only through prayer that we can hope to understand and bring forth the unique potential in our child, thereby helping her grow into the person God intended her to be. God has a vision for each of our children. It is our role to trust in God and help bring that vision to fruition.
The message of Jesus Christ is one of love. To be a Christian parent is to live a life of love. We must strive to love our children as God loves them. Love is not always easy. It requires commitment and sacrifice. It can bring us to the heights of joy and the depths of sorrow. It means not giving up when we are exhausted and it seems everything is in shambles. It means having the courage to make decisions we know are right for our child even when the world (and our child) are telling us that we are wrong.
The message of Jesus Christ is also one of forgiveness. To be a Christian parent means having a willingness to forgive, both our children and ourselves. There will be times when our children will disappoint us. There will also be times when, despite our prayers and all our good intentions, we will fail at parenting. It serves no useful purpose to dwell on our wrongs or the wrongs of our children. We must be willing to both seek and give forgiveness. Every day is a new beginning, a new chance to improve on our parenting and our relationship with our children.
Being a Christian parent is both a challenge and a blessing. In working with God to help our children grow, we grow as well. We deepen our trust in God, and learn to love and forgive more than we ever thought possible. It is indeed a precious gift to be embraced.
A Parent's Prayer
Thank you for my children.
Help me to always remember
that they are your children first.
Help me guide them to become the people
You want them to be.
Please give me patience when mine has
reached its end,
energy when I am exhausted, and
love that know no limits.
Help me to rejoice in my children's happiness, and
to be with them in their sadness.
Help me to see the world through their eyes,
their wonder at the newness of it all.
Most of all, help me to always realize how precious
each day with my children is and how much
I have been truly blessed.
Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur is editor of The Spiritual Woman Newsletter - providing information and inspiration for women who seek to deepen their relationship with God. http://www.spiritualwoman.net and author of "Letters to Mary from a Young Mother" (iUniverse, 2004). She resides in Springfield, MA with her husband and two young sons.
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