Parenting takes time. A fast correction at times is enough, but often a focused conversation is necessary. In a moment of frustration, a parent can react with an angry rebuke, but walking down a path toward restoration with a child takes much longer. Parenting doesn’t give much space for hurry.
Parenting is strategic. Inconsistency is guaranteed to produce exasperation both for the parent and the child, but intentional, creative, redundant emphases over time blossom into wise choices and relational joy, both for the parent and the child. Haphazardness is not characteristic of effective parenting.
Parenting requires presence. Quality time doesn’t happen without quantity time. Occaisional gifts don’t make up for frequent absence. Respect grows as connection is valued. A hands-off approach is no way to parent.
And thus the final contrast. A prayer of sorts.
Lord, help us to be parents who hurry less, avoid haphazardness, and settle for hands-off declarations and pithy lectures. Please make us to become parents who patiently walk alongside our children, who cultivate into our kids’ lives with priorities surrendered to You, and who pursue wandering children the way You have pursued us.
Yesterday morning, Jen took the older four to see the play version of the classic “Frog and Toad” stories. They adored it. My favorite tale from that collection is the one in which Toad desires a garden just like Frog’s. He plants and them is impatient. Frog tried to encourage Toad that screaming at the plants to grow isn’t probably gonna be effective. Patience and watering and more patience and even some circumstances beyond the gardener’s control and some more patience are required.
One wise dad once told me that “steady plodding brings the truest wealth,” patient cultivation brings the greatest harvest. It is true in our parenting for sure.
What helps me most to be patient with others is simply my own remembering of how much patience I require others to have with me.
When I coached high school basketball, Coach Rick Majerus, whom I am quite sure is disappointed with the closing of Hostess, declared to the coaches at his coaching clinic this very wise leadership principle:
“It is not what you teach but what you emphasize.”
Dick Bennett, who coached the Wisconsin Badgers to the 2000 Final Four, told our coaching staff to settle on four or five things that we creatively, redundantly practiced every practice, and he guaranteed not an undefeated season but rather that we would find ourselves AT LEAST in position to possibly win every game. We applied this with much success.
With the same thinking in mind, Jen and I settled on six actions that we would try to live ourselves (with the Spirit’s help) and cultivate into and encourage from our kids. We are in no way suggesting that we are great parents who have arrived at some gold nuggets of wisdom guaranteeing wonderful kids. Rather, we prayed and paid attention to the teachings of Jesus and sought counsel from some other parents and arrived at these six:
:: be believing
…that God loves us and is good and showed us His love most clearly when He sent His Son to be with us to live and die and live again that we might live with Him. The question to ask may not be, “What do you think of God,” but rather, “What does God think of you?”
:: be confessing
…when we realize or have been confronted with our selfishness or our wrongful attitude and actions toward God and others.
:: be grateful
…for the God who came near and all that He allows to come into our hands and into our lives, trusting Him to hold us both through our own mistakes as well as our collisions with the mistakes of others.
…every step to God and every situation to others.
…from Jesus as we walk with Him and with others as we learn and live Christ’s ways together.
…the God who loved us first as well as neighbors and nations the way Jesus loved us.
In Psalm 139, David sang this prayer:
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way.
(Psalm 139:23, 24 HCSB)
David’s profound gratefulness and contrite heart and surrendered life comes through in these words like no other. It is a sober and beautiful expression of worship toward the God who forgave and restored this great King.
A lot of people’s view of God is not one of a Divine Being who pursues them. For many of them, this is because their own father and mothers never pursued relationship with them in this way.
Dennis and Barbara Rainey applied these two verses to our parenting in a significant way. It is a powerful challenge to all of us as parents to pursue our kids.
When you pursue this kind of heart-to-heart relationship with your children, you’re actually following God’s example. Wouldn’t it be wonderful (someday) if your kids could say of you, “My parents have ‘searched me and known me.’ They know not just ‘when I sit down and when I rise up,’ but they also ‘understand my thought’ and are ‘intimately acquainted’ with who I am and what I’m like”?
I pray all of our kids will say that about all of us as parents, reflecting on the ebb and flow and ups and downs of a beautiful adventure with their moms and dads.
May we parent with patience and priorities and pursuit. Intentionally. Over the long haul. With grace. For the sake of God’s goodness rather than their own.