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Is it well-behaved kids?
Is it children who become followers of Christ?
Or is it something altogether different?
I'm coming to think that it's the latter. I believe that successful parenting is parenting that brings glory to God. That doesn't guarantee that fine upstanding citizens or passionate believers in Christ were raised. Please hear me out.
This kind of goes against most parenting philosophies that we hear... even Christian ones. I've read a lot of parenting books and the underlying theme of many of them is something like "If you do it this way, you're kids will turn out great like mine." They give you the recipe for success. If your kids don't turn out like theirs, you didn't follow the steps closely enough.
But what about the families who are genuinely striving to honor God with their parenting and their child still goes astray?
My immediate reaction is to start judging and trying to figure out where they went wrong. Lack of discipline. Absentee father. Priorities that are all out of whack. There must be a different story for this family behind closed doors. Because this doesn't happen to people who are truly honoring God with their parenting, right?
Please tell me I'm right.
We find several examples in Scripture where the right teaching and leadership didn't guarantee good results BUT God was still glorified. Think of Judas (betrayed the most perfect leader and God himself), or of David and Solomon, (a man after God's own heart raised a son who became an idol worshiper), or of Jonah (pouted after Nineveh was saved), and really any place you find sin and God works it out for good.
So, what's my point?
When my son throws a full blown tantrum for the 4th night in a row at bedtime, it doesn't necessarily mean I'm failing.
When he starts crying so loudly during Sunday morning service that he disrupts the whole thing before we can sneak out the back with him, it doesn't necessarily mean I'm failing.
When my boys get plenty of practice and opportunity to share toys, but just can't seem to "figure it out," it doesn't necessarily mean I'm failing.
So, how do I know if I am succeeding in these situations? I think the answer lies in the process. I may not get the results I want, but if God is glorified, each an every encounter with my children can be a "success." Did I lovingly correct them? Did I point them to the Savior? Did I set the right example by seeking to honor God first and foremost?
Obviously, only in a perfect world would I be able to answer yes to all of those questions every single time. Remember that quote I shared with you from Give Them Grace yesterday? I think it's good enough to share twice.
So, when you have that morning to top all mornings, when everything that could possibly go wrong does, when grace doesn't mean anything to you, it is his grace that will sustain you. What mornings like these teach us is that we're just like our children. They forget, and so do we. They need grace, and so do we. We are partners in grace with them.For me, that was like a huge weight lifted off. I'm not gonna get it right all the time. I'm not always going to have the right frame of mind when I'm in the midst of the situation. That's why I need grace. Just like them. But if I draw attention to that (gulp, even my failures) then, in a sense, I've pointed to HIM. If I've shown my children that my sin, their sin, OUR SIN is why we need a Savior, then I've pointed them to Jesus. And, as a result, God is glorified even in the middle of a complete mess.
What a relief, that even my failures can point to Jesus.
If the overarching theme of my parenting points to HIM and not results, then I think it's the most successful approach possible.
So, do I care how my boys turn out? OF COURSE! I care A LOT.
I love Proverbs 22:6. "Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it." Proverbs are truisms, not promises, but a truism means that as a general rule it will happen this way. So that's exciting!!! There's a good chance that if I raise my boys to love the Lord, they will!
But at the end of the day, it's not all about me. It's not even all about my kids. It's all about God and him glorified.
Glorified in our successes.
Glorified in our failures.
That is successful parenting.
You might be interested in checking out the other posts from our Gospel-Centered Parenting series:
Introduction: A Major Shift in My Parenting Mindset
Part 1: Back to the Basics
Part 2: Moral Parenting vs. Christian Parenting
Free Printable: The Gospel in the Bible
Part 3: Instilling a Realistic View of Self
Part 4: How Gospel-Centered Parenting is Looking for Us on a Practical Level
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