Lessons from Parenthood

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Ephesians 6:4

My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.
Proverbs 3:11-12

My home is awash in hormones. I pity my husband, really, as he seems to be the only member of our family who is not going through some physio-chemical change right now. All three of our children are in various stages of puberty, and I… well, I am a woman in my 40s. Enough said.

Last week, one of the inevitable explosions occurred smack in the middle of our school day. My middle daughter and I clashed over a particular point of continuing disrespectful behavior. Warnings and verbal rebukes had been given in plenty, yet the problem persisted. Rather than accepting correction with humility, she responded sullenly, certain she had been wronged and blaming me entirely rather than accepting any responsibility for her own actions.

Try as I do not to take these things personally, there was a bit of me that was hurt by her petulant response to discipline. I was overcome by a sense of my own inadequacy and felt like a failure as a mom. A more selfish part of me was frustrated that, after all I have sacrificed in order to home school, the results were not meeting my expectations.

In that moment, I desperately wished that my children could see the grace they are given when my husband and I warn them not to continue in wrong behaviors.  I wished that they would accept accountability for their actions rather than assigning blame elsewhere.  I wanted them all to know the sacrifices that have been made so they can have the life they do.

I also longed for them to stop receiving gentle rebukes as if they were merely a reprieve from punishment, but instead to heed them as sincere warnings that unpleasant consequences lie ahead if the behavior continues. I wished the kids would just listen and understand that all the discipline my husband and I administer is done out of love and for their own good.

Oh…

Realization punched through my agitation: I am often exactly like my child. In all the incorrect responses of my child, I see a reflection of my own incorrect responses to my Father’s discipline.

I love that my Father keeps me humble. I love that He uses the painful incidents — and even failures — of my own parenting to remind me of His own sacrificial, nurturing nature; to bring my focus off my problems or my hurt and back to Him where it belongs.

Perhaps next time there is a parent/child conflict, I will remember that parenting is a part of my own spiritual training.  Perhaps my children’s responses will serve to remind me to respond with humility and openness when I am chastened.  Perhaps I can keep my eyes on the enormous sacrifice of my Father, losing myself entirely in the depths of His overwhelming love.

Perhaps, too, the next time simmering emotions boil over into full-scale battle, I will not cave to feelings of parental failure but rely on the only perfect Father to be my wisdom and my strength.

When I am grieved by my children, let it be a reminder to me how my Father grieves when I ignore His still, small voice.  May it be that both my children and I will always turn to Him no matter what external or internal forces may be at work. And I pray that I may always, always be faithful to discipline my children in love, forgiving them as I have been forgiven, and at all times pointing them to God both in my words and my deeds.

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.
Ephesians 4:31-5:1

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