My kids are growing up! My husband and I have actually reached the stage of starting to help our older children develop marketable skills and try to figure out what they want to do in life. These days, I find myself contemplating the nature and goals of parenting more than ever before.
What is parenting? Is it training a child to be a productive, law-abiding member of society? Is it cultivating a child’s natural gifts and abilities so that he can achieve his full potential? Is it teaching a child to be increasingly more and more independent until the day that he moves out into the world to make his own path? Is it modeling to that child a vital relationship with Jesus so that he can know God’s love for him and hopefully respond with heartfelt love and devotion of his own?
Yes. Yes. Yes, and yes!
But how do I do this? In some sense, children are clay to be molded—their personalities inevitably shaped by their family, friends, life experiences, and society. However, in another sense, they are saplings to nurture—their personalities having unique inclinations that resist my efforts to change them like a tree’s roots push against constricting slabs of concrete and eventually break free. Without my input, my children will be shaped haphazardly by the other influences in their lives, and I know that wouldn’t be good for them. But on the other hand, I know that when I impose too many restrictions, they start to push back.
In the almost fifteen years of my ongoing parenting adventure, I have come to believe that the parent-child relationship should be a delicate balance between guidance on the parent’s side and discovery on the part of the child, a place where parental experience nurtures childish experimentation, where loving boundaries create a space for safe self-expression. A home like this would be a thing of stunning beauty, but if I’m honest, most days my children experience only faint glimmers of this ideal. I try to control too much, afraid of losing them to accident or illness or sin or the devil—or simply too tired or too grouchy to cope with the chaos that comes along with the free-spirited expression of six boys. And on my good days when I feel fully present with my precious little men, intuiting their needs and responding to them with empathy and wisdom, I still find that my best efforts are not enough to change their hearts. What’s a mother to do?
The longer I parent, the more convinced I become that my only hope lies in prayer.
Only through prayer can I become the type of mother my boys need. Only prayer can give me the wisdom and insight necessary to guide them through the treacherous shoals of childhood and adolescence to the open waters of God’s good purposes for their lives. Only prayer gives me the possibility of offering them real protection from the host of possible ills I fear and securing for them the great blessings I desire. And most importantly, only prayer can effect change in my children’s hearts. This is the crux of the matter, because as a Christian parent, my greatest desire for my children is that they would love and follow Jesus, but I am utterly powerless to make this happen.
So if I do nothing else for my children, I must pray for them, because it is as I pray that God’s inexhaustible power will be unleashed in my and my children’s lives, changing all of us into the people we are supposed to be. If I do just this one thing well, I can stop worrying about all the rest, for I am becoming more and more convinced of this simple truth: the most important goals of parenting are accomplished most effectively through prayer. It is through prayer that I do the main work of parenting.
If you enjoyed this, you can subscribe here.
I would be honored to have the privilege of encouraging you on a regular basis!