I’ve always loved those ‘light bulb’ moments in life. Those moments in time when something that was previously unknown or unseen is suddenly illuminated in technicolor clarity. It is at those times that I realize how very much I still have to learn. Epiphany. What a beautiful word.
My husband and I were recently asked to join an 18 week parenting class. I have felt for a while now that parent mentoring is seriously lacking in the church these days, so I jumped at the chance to participate. I figured that we could brush up on some tips to use with our own kids while sharing some of our 17 years of experience.
I remember an incident a few years back when I was in my bathroom, tooling around in my morning routine. Suddenly I saw the unthinkable in the mirror. Right behind me was the largest spider I had ever seen in my life. I honestly thought I was hallucinating. It could not possibly be real, it was that big. It wasn’t moving, but it was right in the middle of a blank spot on the wall. At eye level. How I could have been going about my business and not spotted it immediately is unfathomable. Normally, this paranoid-phobic can spot a tiny spider instantly in any room I enter.
Arrogance is a bit like that giant spider in my bathroom. It creeps in and takes residence, even when one is on the lookout for it. I had checked my heart before attending our first parenting meeting. I had prayed for wisdom and clarity. I truly do have a heart for the young moms who are struggling with reigning in the chaos of children and finding some semblance of sanity. I was ready to listen. I was ready to allow the Lord to prompt me to speak only if it would encourage and benefit the group.
But I was not prepared to actually learn anything new. After all, we have four amazing kids already, so we must have it down, right? None of them roll their eyes at me or have ever said ‘no’ to a command of mine. The siblings are best of friends. Aside from the rare outburst from our youngest, no one in the family screams or yells at each other. We all get along so well, I know that some people wouldn’t believe me. Not that my children are perfect, nor are my husband and I particularly skilled parents. Nevertheless, we’re doing just fine, I thought.
So I was not exactly expecting to have a full-on epiphany that night. It was delightful! I was really excited about it because it was something so incredibly simple that I couldn’t fathom how I’d not seen it long ago. I will share the specifics of what I learned another day, but what I want to drive home right now is what makes a good parent.
My husband and I have often gotten kind remarks from friends and strangers alike on how well behaved our kids are. It is incredibly encouraging, yet I have a hard time taking much credit for it. I know all too well my own flaws and past mistakes. I know that I am supremely selfish, impatient, and lazy. So what makes a ‘good parent’? As my husband and I discussed the topic over coffee one morning, we decided that good parents are continually learning.
“Not until we have become humble and teachable, standing in awe of God’s holiness and sovereignty. acknowledging our own littleness, distrusting our own thoughts, and willing to have our minds turned upside down, can divine wisdom become ours.” J.I. Packer
Good parents also keep the end game in their vision. The end game is simply to stand before Jesus one day with our children standing beside us. To train them up in such a way as to guide them into their own love relationship with their Creator. If we are not constantly learning and growing ourselves, we can hardly model a genuine vibrant walk with Jesus. We must show them the reality of our failures and victories. They must see us seeking to learn and grow. In transparency we model the life-long quest to become more Christlike. Then the lavish grace and wisdom that is ours for the asking can become their reality as well.
“Remember that you are not called to produce successful, upwardly mobile, highly educated, athletically talented machines…Giving your children great opportunities is good; it is not, however, the goal of parenting. Christlikeness is. Above all, seek to raise children who look and act a lot like Jesus.” Chip Ingram, Effective Parenting in a Defective World
I’m not a perfect parent. In fact, some days I am flat-out a bad one. But I do get excited to learn and grow and change for the benefit of my family. And when I take the time to explore new things about my kids, myself, and our family dynamics, I feel like the best Mom in the world. It is a matter of choice. Will I mature and evolve in my approach to parenting? Or will I choose to stagnate, be enslaved by my habitual methods, or worse, my fickle emotions? What kind of parent will I be today?