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Thursday, June 1, 2017

Christian Parenting: What I've learnt about God as a parent

Is there a link between Parenting and Christianity? How can we parent our children in a Christian way? What does Parenting teach us about God? Can we learn about God through Parenting?

Parenting is a Blessing. It is a unique experience which should be cherished and valued always. Through parenting I have learnt a lot about myself as an individual, gained a lot more responsibility and become more independent and self-reliant knowing that I cannot be depending on other people when I already have a little someone depending on me.

Mother and Toddler Son Holding Hands

The lessons motherhood has taught me are countless but the biggest I have learnt are the lessons parenting has taught me about Christianity and God.

The following are the top 7 lessons I have learnt about Our Heavenly Father, God through being a parent myself.

1.  The Way God Forgives

I've come to realize how we as children expect forgiveness and how God forgives us. 

My 3 year old will do the same thing wrong thing over and over again - whether this is throwing something at the TV, using a 'bad word' or splashing water on the floor. He might stop an hour or two or maybe even a couple of days and then it's right back to where we started. Each time he'll say "sorry mommy" and expect that those magic words will make everything better, completely erase the offence and all will proceed on as if nothing had happened. And he is right. More often then not, while parenting him, that is exactly what happens. I forgive my son over and over again. There is not a time that he will say “sorry mommy” and I will say, "No Dominick, that was the 36th time now and you only get 36 chances so unfortunately I cannot forgive you. Things will never be the same between us again..."

Mother and Toddler Son sharing a Milkshake
God’s love and forgiveness is that way. We keep making mistakes, sinning and messing up. We keep recognizing our mistakes, apologizing, asking for forgiveness and hoping for another chance. And God keeps giving them. God doesn’t hold grudges. He doesn’t remind us that “you did that the last time or 20 times already so there is no more forgiveness or chances for you – it’s over...” No. God Keeps forgiving and keeps wiping the slate clean.

2.  Sometimes We Do Things By Ourselves

This epiphany was a really big one for me.

I’ve witnessed my 3 year old want to do everything by himself. There are certain things he can manage like going to the toilet, taking off his socks or brushing his hair. But other times, with other things, he just fails miserably. 

I know my sons capabilities and I know what he can handle and what he needs a little more practice on or some help or for me to do it completely - changing the batteries of his toy car, for example is more of a 'mommy thing'. Regardless, upon noticing that the batteries of a toy car are flat we will mutually agree that it is time for the battery’s to be changed. I’ll reach out to take the car and make the changes but be met by instant resistance. He cling onto the car holding it tightly and insisting that he can do it on his own. 
At first I will try and insist that I need to help or that I need to do it. I will try and tug it away from him but he will be adamant that he doesn’t need me. I will then give in and say “Okay then Dominick. Do it by yourself.” Step back and watch him. 

He will struggle for a few minutes his frustration building up in his complete failure to succeed in changing the batteries. Eventually he will give up and come right back to me... “Mommy, please help! Please change it for me”. He will say and then only I will take full control and do it for him. 
It won’t take long and before he even realizes it, the car has brand new batteries and he’s having an awesome time playing with it again.

This is identical to our lives and children of God! We struggle with God - wrestling for full control and telling Him “I can do it by myself!” We want to take control of the steering of our lives trying to handle something we clearly cannot manage or do on our own. 
Eventually God takes a step back and leaves us to fumble around our lives trying to make things work or do things we can never manage alone. God waits patiently for us to give the control back to Him. 
It is so simple to just stop holding on so tightly, let go of the control and approach God giving that “problem”, “issue”, “interview” or “relationship” to Him and saying “Here my Father, please help. Please do this for me”. 

Once we have handed it to God, just as when our children hand things to us for help, God is able to take full control, fix the situation or handle it and hand it back to us when He knows we can handle it or in a phase he knows we can control. He too knows His children's capabilities and they we need help with.

3. At Times We Throw Tantrums
Father and Son

When he doesn't get his way, my toddler will throw major tantrums. He'll cry, sulk, rebel and shout how much "Mommy sucks!" and concluding that he won't be speaking to me anymore.

How similar are we?
When things don’t go the way we would like for them to go (whether or not that what has or hasn't happened is in our best interest), we will complain, grumble, question “does God exist? Is God real? Why won’t God listen to me?” We will stop Praying in rebellion or as an aim to ‘ignore God’ or “stop speaking to Him”.

Just as I do not take my sons tantrums or anger personally, neither does God. He is our Heavenly Father and he understands our ignorance and “childish ways”. Tantrums won’t make me give in to my Sons demands or hurt my feelings and neither will our Tantrums to God.

4. God Weighs Out What We Want and What Is Good For Us.

Linked to the temper tantrums when we don't get our way, my 3 year old will often request or want things that are completely terrible for him - sweets right before bed, to play with an electric socket, to have a drink of washing liquid, or to drive our car solely on the freeway... 
I know these things are completely bad for him and I would be a terrible parent if I let him have his way with any of these. But evidently my 3 year old does not see or understand that. Somethings he will never get from me – a glass of dishwashing liquid to drink and some he will get when the time is right and he is ready – to drive the car in a few years when he is the legal age.

We are the same way. How often have we prayed over and over for the same thing from God – Nagging and pestering Him for something we feel that we need or want? In the same way, God knows when something is bad for us and we may never get it as does He know when we are not ready for something and have to wait a few months or years for it – Gods timing is perfect and he understands the world better just as I understand the world better than my 3 year old.

Mother and Son
5. God Wants Us To Be Grateful and Thankful.

I've spent the past few months (probably over a year) reminding my toddler to say THANK-YOU every time he is handed something or given something. Thankfulness is extremely important as is gratitude. How it displeases me if I go out of any way to make my sons favorite dish or buy him a special gift randomly and I'm met with a lack of enthusiasm, ungratefulness or lack of appreciation. 
At the same time there are times that my 3 year old will say "Thank you mommy. You're the best." or tell me I'm the best mommy ever. Oh how that warms my heart and soul! These moments may be few and far between but they mean so much to me.

How similar are we? 
Is it really surprising that God would like that same gratitude and appreciation we long for?
God wants us to say Thank-You for the fact that we are healthy, we are alive, we have a roof over our heads. we have been blessed with the gift of parenthood when so many others aren’t able to have children. We have a job when so many are unemployed. We have food when so many are starving...
Instead, we grumble and complain. We keep taking without any gratitude. We show a lack of appreciation or thankfulness.
It warms Gods very essence to see our gratitude. To hear us tell Him what an Awesome Father He is. What a wonderful God He is. How thankful we are and how much we appreciate Him and all that he does for us.

As a parent we teach our children to say “Thank-you”. Let us do the same.

6. There Are Consequences and Punishments 

There is a difference between the Consequences and Punishments. 

Consequences are a direct after effect of your decisions, choices or actions. 
Mother and Son Kissing
Punishment is imposed on you.

As a parent I hate the thought of my son having to experience anything bad - ever. I want nothing more than to protect him and keep him safe from the big bad world we find ourselves in. But the truth is, occasionally my son runs into "consequences". I make it my priority to prevent major consequences like touching a hot plate on the stove or pulling on a kettle of boiling water but minor consequences like slipping and landing on his butt after being told not to run indoors, is a consequence he often has to bare.
I can try and minimize the impact of the consequences of his disobedience by ensuring there are no furniture pieces with sharp corners anywhere near him, objects that could hurt him during a fall are removed etc but that won’t guarantee any less bumps or bruises.

God treats us in the same way. He warns us against certain things. Tries to steer us in the right direction in order to avoid certain consequences but at the end of the day, we have Free Will. In true Parent Fashion, God is Able to minimize our 'falls’ by turning a ‘bad situation’ around but sometimes we have to bear the full consequences of our actions and learn from them for the future.

When it comes to punishment, things seem about the same too. The same way a parent cannot protect a child from the law should they commit a crime resulting in them being “punished” by imprisonment, that is the same way God may not be able to protect us from Hell should we not find Salvation in Jesus as much as He would love us to. That doesn’t mean God loves us any less just as every mother with a child in prison still loves that child regardless.

7. Unconditional Love.

Father and Son Fishing

The number one thing I've learnt being a parent is unconditional love. Before parenting I don't believe I actually grasped the concept or understood what unconditional love actually was or what it entails. As a mother I have come to realize the true meaning of unconditional love and this is the same way God loves us - as his children. 

No matter how grumpy my son is, how often he defies me or directly disobeys my orders as a 3 year old or no matter what he may do in the future, there is nothing that could ever change the love I have for him and his place in my heart. I love him through everything and no matter what.
God loves us. He has that same unconditional love for us. 

In conclusion: 

I have learnt a whole lot from being a parent and I am sure that as time goes by I will learn even more. My journey as a mother has helped me understand God a little better. I am very grateful for the gift God has given me in my Son and for the Blessing of His Son – Jesus Christ.

I hope to be able to instill everything I have learnt and continue to learn about God In my Son as he grows older.
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