Sober Parenthood

To be completely honest with you, it took time for me to “want” to have children. The totality of that experience is best saved for another post on another day. However, I think it is worth sharing before I dive into a post about parenthood. The man I was – the pre-Dad version of me – seems a distant past. Now I simply cannot imagine my life without our two boys, 5 and 2 years old. It is an incredible joy that I can barely explain. Dr. Meg Meeker describes it best when she says, “Having children is like having your heart out of your chest, running around in this world.” This is so true. I feel despair when my son is sick, elated when my son is happy, and intrigued when my son is curious. During the experience of life, parenthood is a gift that cannot be replicated nor replaced.

With that being said, I’ve been compelled lately toward a commitment to moderation. Yes, I believe it is entirely possible to become “inebriated” with parenthood. Consider traditional inebriation by alcohol. A person’s standards become greatly compromised. It becomes impossible to think clearly or make wise decisions. Your physical boundaries become blurred and your moral compass loses its truth north. By contrast, Meriam-Webster defines moderation as, “avoiding extremes of behavior or expression: observing reasonable limits.” This is not a post encouraging us simply to “not worship our kids.” Instead, I want you to consider with me how a better understanding of who God is, God’s design for parenthood, and our role as parents should generate a kind of moderation which causes a watching, listening world to take note.

God is sovereign. But He is not only sovereign, He is a God of providence. Pages have been written on this topic. John Piper describes providence as, “the purposeful sovereignty of God[1].” It is possible to be sovereign and not be good. An evil king gives malevolent experiences. But God good. He is sovereign. And in His providence, what we experience is always for our good and His glory – even if we do not understand. So perhaps you have been blessed with a child or children; perhaps not yet. Perhaps you have been blessed with a physically healthy child; perhaps he has a handicap. Maybe you wanted “just one more” and God blessed you with twins. No matter your specific family dynamic, you can know that in God’s sovereignty and by His providence your circumstance is not by happenstance. Your familial situation is for your good and for His glory.

Psalm 127 is an incredibly popular passage of scripture for parents. Specifically, the portion which describes children as an inheritance and a blessing. Some even make the argument we should have as many children as possible because the Bible describes the blessed man as having a church van full…or something like that. But seriously, the passage is clear that if in God’s sovereignty and by His providence a family has children, they are considered blessed. But a closer look at the original Hebrew word will help keep us from becoming “drunk” on that blessing.

The word “heritage” or “gift” is translated from the Hebrew nachalah, meaning, property that is inherited as a precious heirloom. Considering this truth further, imagine you are given an expensive family heirloom. It is not valuable because of what you spent on it. It has an intrinsic value which exists because it exists. For example, earlier in October a rather unassuming painting was discovered hanging over the stove in an elderly woman’s kitchen in Compiegne, France – a country town of 41,000 people northeast of Paris. Likely painted in the 13th century by Italian artist Cimabue, “Christ Mocked” sold for €24m ($26.6 million U.S. dollars). Are you kidding?! It was hanging over some hotplates one day and setting an auction record the next. This painting, originally expected to only (only) collect approx. €6m, far exceeding expectations. But the new owner did not pay €24m because the sweet little old lady paid that much. The new owner paid that much because that is what the painting was worth. The same is true in parenthood. A child is not worth whatever value a person gives it. Every child is created by God and in His image – Imago Dei. Therefore, we know two things: every child is priceless (not limited to conditional value) and every child is an inheritance from God (does not belong to us). This is truth is an incredible contrast to our society. Our society typically promotes one of two extremes: children are just a part of life and are to be treated in ways which are most convenient to you or children are running around as little gods and goddess dressed in Janie & Jack.

So, what does all this mean for the Christ-following parent? In God’s sovereignty He chose to bless you with a child. Your son or daughter is a blessing. Even if the timing of their arrival was not perfect. Even though the condition of their physical body is not ideal. Even when their attitudes cause friction, angst, and despair. In God’s providence the existence of your child in your life is for your good and God’s glory. Your child is a reward.

It also means the child you have is not yours – and we will do well to remember this. Your son or daughter is a priceless, precious inheritance given to you by God for a defined amount of time. Hebrews teaches us that it is appointed for everyone to die. This, sadly, includes our children. In light of this truth, if the day comes when our child dies before us, we have a measure of resolve. And, far more desired, should we outlive our children, to daily remember the truth our child is not our own should deeply and sincerely enrich the time we do have with them.

Your child has value because they were created by God, for God. In a world of measurable worth, your son or daughter is priceless. Though the temptation is to esteem your child when they succeed and feel frustration when they misbehave, the truth is their value never changes. Your little one has an intrinsic value because he or she was created by his or her Heavenly Father. Do not allow yourself to become their god. Do not treat them as if their value fluctuates with their behavior. It’s tempting to be harsh with our children when they don’t act or talk as we want them to. It’s even easier to worship them whenever they live up to our standards and social norms.

To become drunk with parenthood is to forget our children belong to God and were given to you by God. They are not ours but an inheritance. Do not become so inebriated that you live as if your child will live forever. Any finally, remain sober minded to the truth your child’s value is not in his or her actions, attributes, or accomplishments. Our God has given us unconditional love, grace, mercy, and patience. We have only a small window of years to be the parents of a child. Therefore, it is paramount we give the same unconditional love to the child He has bestowed upon us.