It’s been another one of those nights. You’ve been out of bed more than you’ve been in it. The house is a wreck because you just didn’t have it in you the night before to clean and tidy yet another whirlwind left by your children. You’re dead tired but can’t sleep because you’ve been interrupted too much and you’re dreading the moment the rest of the house wakes. You’re not satisfied with your relationship with your spouse because you haven’t been able to give it the time it deserves. Financial pressure is mounting as the end of the month looms and your family’s schedule is unrelenting. Life is a blur and you are in desperate need of clarity!
This is the first in a series of blog posts based on a book that Helena and I came across a few years back, called “Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family” by Paul Tripp. Once I started to get into it, I knew there was something significant and special about this book. It is not a practical book, but rather a book about grand perspectives and principles of the gospel of Jesus as it relates to ourselves and to our parenting. After sharing it with Helena, we listened to it together (audio books are excellent if your hands are occupied but your brain is not. Eg. Driving, housework, running etc). We think so highly of it that we are now busy running a parenting course at Newgen based on this book. If you haven’t read it, I would highly recommend that you grab a copy and slowly and prayerfully make your way through it.
Back to our intro. The truth is many parents get lost in the fog and blur of a busy life. We need clarity. There are a myriad of reasons as to why we are lost, but one of them certainly is that we don’t know who we are as parents in relation to who God is, what life is about and to who our children are.
When it comes to how we see our children, a view we can have on this is that we are their owners. This view operates from the perspective of parenting that says “These children are mine, so I can do as I like with them”. We are not overt in saying as much, but that is the essence of how many of us feel. In all the craziness of parenting, we forget what parenting is about. Paul Tripp says that “We look at our children as belonging to us, and we end up doing things that are short-sighted, not helpful in the long-run, more reactive than goal-oriented, and outside of God’s great, big, wise plan.”
Ownership parenting is not overtly abusive, selfish or destructive but rather it is a slow and unseen shift that leads our parenting away from the way God intended it to be. This shift doesn’t take place in big grand parenting events, but rather in mostly unnoticeable small and mundane moments of family life. Tripp says that “It’s the repeated cycle of little unplanned moments that is the soul-shaping workroom of parenting.” More than that, ownership parenting is driven by our hopes and dreams for, and from our kids. This is intuitive and does good things, but fundamentally is not Biblical and will not produce what God intends in his kids’ lives.
Tripp says that “Good parenting, which does what God intends it to do, begins with this radical and humbling recognition that our children don’t actually belong to us”. Rather, as we see in Psalm 127:3, that every single child belongs to Jesus. They are His possession for His purpose. And so His plan for parents is that we would be His ambassadors for Him, to His children, that He has placed in our care.
Tripp explains the role of an ambassador: “The only thing an ambassador does, if he’s interested in keeping his job, is to faithfully represent the message, methods, and character of the leader who has sent him. He is not free to think, speak, or act independently. Everything he does, every decision he makes, and every interaction he has must be shaped by this one question: “What is the will and plan of the one who sent me?” The ambassador does not represent his own interest, his own perspective, or his own power.” Let that sink in. Read it again if you must. It is a powerful realisation.
This type of parenting is unnatural and counterintuitive. Personally, I know that more often than not I operate out of a ownership mentality and in order for that to change I am desperately in need for the Holy Spirit to
- Bring a healthy self awareness around my propensity towards this mentality, and
- Help me parent as an ambassador for Christ to the kids he has entrusted to me.
What about you? What is your propensity? Be honest with yourself and ask God to highlight ways in which you are parenting with an ownership mentality, and then ask that He would help you to shift, in the daily and mundane tasks of parenting, to be His ambassador to our kids.
Keep an eye out for part two in this series as we continue to explore ownership vs ambassadorial parenting.