The Gift and Burden of Parenthood
By Anne Kerhoulas
The Good News and the Bad News
If you’ve been following along at Cross Formed Kids for a bit, you’ve probably heard us tell you that parents are the primary disciple-makers in their children’s lives. But if you’re like me, that statement is a good news bad news situation.
The good news: you have the power to shape your child more than anyone else!
The bad news: you have the power to shape your child more than anyone else!
The first time read that statement I felt deep encouragement, a soaring empowerment in my role as a mother: I can teach my children the ways of the gospel, the truth of the Bible, and the love of Christ.
But that excitement was quickly followed by an uh-oh moment—the responsibility to disciple and train up my children in the ways of the Lord felt like a burden that I was unequipped to carry. My own sin and failure to love them well were overwhelming, and I began to fear for my kid’s salvation based on my abilities as a mom.
Like so much in the Christian life, parenthood presents both a glorious vision of love and self-sacrifice and a profound challenge, a narrow pathway. Every day, we pick our way along pitfalls of power struggles, difficult climbs that exhaust us physically and emotionally, and breathtaking glimpses of the glory that it is to love someone else like we love ourselves.
It is here, in the harsh and beautiful reality of parenting, that we face our call to be the main disciple-makers in the lives of these humans God has entrusted to us. So how do we move along this journey with quiet confidence and joy instead of fear, anxiety, and inadequacy?
The Gift of Grace
We must realize that parenthood is a gift of grace directed both toward us as parents and toward our children.
Parenthood will likely become the primary source of our own discipleship as we grow in becoming the primary disciple-makers for our children. God wants to transform us in the process of parenting our children in just as many ways as he wants to use us in their lives for his kingdom.
When I was engaged to my husband, I remember wishing that I had dealt with more of my issues. I lamented that I still struggled with certain sins, that I still had emotional wounds from my childhood, and that I wasn’t a perfectly perfected bride for my husband. But the thing the Lord began to teach me in our first year of marriage was that it was marriage itself that he would use to grow me, to lead me into repentance, to heal the wounds, and to sanctify me. I wanted to have it all together before I got married, but Jesus doesn’t ask us to be perfect before we come to him, rather he invites us to come and he makes us whole along the way.
I felt similar pangs of regret when I was pregnant with my girls. I wished that I had resolved body image struggles so I could better embody a healthy theology and practice for my kids. I wondered how I would grow deeper in my faith with sleepless nights and free time for prayer and Scripture given over to taking care of newborn twins. But the Lord met me with the same truth as he did before. It would be through motherhood that he would transform my view of my body. It would be through the profound self-sacrifice, the new depths of mercy that I felt, and the dependence upon our community that he would deepen my faith in ways I never could have imagined.
Parenthood is a gift of grace for us. It is through parenting that the Lord wants to transform you into the likeness of his son. And what better way to do it! Parenting more closely embodies the lifestyle of Jesus than any other thing that I have encountered in my life. Never before have I been asked to pour out my time, energy, emotion, and resources for the sake of others in such profound ways. Never before have I longed for the salvation of others so acutely. Never before have I understood the high call of following Jesus in every aspect of my life as when I realized I had to live a congruent life for my kids.
George McDonald, an author and theologian, said, “As the world must be redeemed in a few men to begin with, so the soul is redeemed in a few of its thoughts and wants and ways, to begin with. It takes a long time to finish the new creation of this redemption.”
When my girls were about a year old I remember thinking how crazy it was that after the longest year of my life, they were still so small and so helpless. But this is how God made humans to grow—slowly.
This Christmas when we unpacked the ornaments, we found plastic balls filled with ribbons that showed how tall my girls were last year at Christmas. The ribbon touches their noses this year, tangible proof that they have been growing slowly day by day.
Today, as you face the gift and burden of discipling your children, rest in the promise that Christ will give us exactly what we need for the task at hand. Remember that our children are a gift of grace for our own sanctification. That we don’t have to have our lives perfected in order to parent our children with grace. That God promises he will bring the work in us to completion and he will never leave us along the way. Today, hear the good news that your children are a gift to you just as much as you are a gift to them—for God’s glory and for his Kingdom coming.