“Nothing is more important in your life than being one of God’s tools to form a human soul.” Paul Tripp
Parents from Church at the Cross, including myself, and surrounding churches had the opportunity in September to attend Paul Tripp’s Parenting Conference. “Welcome To Parenting,” boasted the banner at the entrance of CATC. Passing under it, I couldn’t help but mentally add the words, “Good Luck” to the bottom.
Thirty minutes earlier, I had loaded three children under the age of six into my mini-van. I listened serenely to my life’s current soundtrack: “Mom, mom, mom, mommy, mom” punctuated by bickering and made multi-sensory by cascading cheerios and shoes in flight. I called out into the ambiance: “STOP! Or so help me!” We pulled into the parking lot, waved at the nice man with the umbrella, and ran through the rain, smiles plastered to our faces.
PARENTING IS HARD
Whether this is your first week with your first child at home or whether your sixth grandchild just graced this earth, you can relate. The work of parenting is all-consuming, sacrificial, and sanctifying to the core.
Tripp opened the conference by asking all of us what keeps us going as parents. If you answered coffee, you are in good company. However, even the most spectacular hug-in-a-mug isn’t going to cut it the first time your 4-year-old screams “You’re the worst mom ever!” or your second grade son asks you not to kiss him at school drop-off anymore. Coffee, grit, stubbornness, or even heart-wrenching love is not going to carry you through turbulent teen years, an angry and distant adult child, and it is certainly not going to hold you up when the doctor says, “Childhood cancer.”
So, what does multi-cast Tripp so lovingly tell a room full of terminally caffeinated parents? “Parenting is not about you.” That’s it, it is not about us and guess what, it’s not about our kids either! Parenting is about teaching our kids that there is “ONE in the center of the universe and it is not them.”
“Parenting is not about you.”
How do we do this? Tripp explains that our one calling in parenting is creating “God Consciousness.” Living out our relationship with Jesus in front of our children helps them to recognize not only his presence, but also their own need for rescue. Talk about God all the time–the natural world does, we should also. “It should be impossible to dwell in your home without becoming God conscious,” says Tripp. We should never threaten our children into obedience; rather, we need to root the obedience of our children in the knowledge and kindness of God.
What then keeps us going? Calling. Our calling as parents should be what propels us forward in the hardest times. Want for your children what God wants for your children and use every opportunity to talk about something transcendent.
BUT PAUL, TELL ME HOW!
Dr. Tripp made it clear that he was not going to give us ten easy steps to becoming a better parent. Parenting, as with most things, starts with the heart. In fact, God has already given us, in his divine power through Jesus, all we need in each moment of parenting. As parents we have to first confess our need for all Jesus did on the cross.
“Identity amnesia always leads to identity replacement.”
The redemption of parenting starts with where we are looking for rest, hope, and affirmation—where we place our identity. “Identity amnesia always leads to identity replacement,” Tripp explains. Our parenting is shaped by where and in whom we are finding our identity. Are you looking to your child to be that identity? Are you too focused on his/her success? On what people think of you when they see your child? Do you have a need to control your child? Are you working for behavior modification over heart change? Are you personalizing what is not personal? If so, you are looking for your savior in your children, who need their own savior.
IDENTITY IN JESUS, CHECK. BUT THEY JUST. WON’T. LISTEN.
Tripp teaches that having a right view of authority is paramount for both our children and us. Every human needs authority, but we all rebel against it based on two lies: the lie of autonomy—I am independent and have the right to my own decisions—and the lie of self-sufficiency—I have all I need within me to be and do what I am supposed to.
“Win the authority battles young.”
“Win the authority battles young,” says Tripp. God has placed you over your children to display to them his invisible authority. This ambassadorial aspect requires that our exercise of authority is a beautiful reflection of God’s ultimate authority.
What does God’s authority look like? Unbending and full of grace–just look at the cross. “Jesus had to go to the cross because God would not compromise his authority to deliver his grace.” Our children should feel unquestioningly comfortable and safe in our love, but Tripp reminds us that “your job is not to be the best, coolest friend of your child.” We walk a fine line between overbearing authority and wanting to be the “fun” parent, wanting to be liked. Our authority must mirror God’s, who was willing to face shame and rejection to love us into life. While his authority is unrelenting, we must remember that it is his kindness, not overbearing force that leads to obedience. Keep in mind that your childen’s obedience to you is for their benefit. God promises that their life will go better if they honor the parents he has placed over them.
Reaping the long-term harvest of a right view of authority takes repentance on our part; ask yourself, what areas am I practicing my own autonomy? “Wrap your authority in the beautiful character of the Redeemer,” Tripp says.
FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT
“The war of parenting is a worship war,” explained Tripp. Our children are worshippers, and as such, their behavior will be dictated by what rules their hearts. We all idolize self and are quick to offer our worship to anything that brings pleasure and comfort. Unpacking the worship dynamic of a child’s heart helps them to see that their choices are being controlled by an idol and not by God. Helping them to see that they are creatures made for worship, and that they will always be worshipping something—even when they do not realize it—helps them learn to find their identity in the God who made them. Next time you face that same parenting battle you fought yesterday and the million days before, ask worship questions: what has this child attached to his/her well-being that is not the Lord? When we do so, we fight on behalf of our children the war of worship that they do not yet know exists.
We have all failed miserably as parents. Thank you, and goodnight.
It is true that we are imperfect and so our parenting is as well. Yet, the hope of the gospel applies here, also. Pastor JR Vassar closed the conference with this encouragement, “One of the greatest promises of scripture is that God can make your latter days more fruitful than your former days.”
God’s kindness leads us to repentance, so bring your parenting fails to Jesus and allow him to redeem what you feel is lost.
Then, keep calm and parent on. He has, after all, given you all you need!
Deuteronomy 6, 2 Peter 1, ESV, Ephesians 6:4, Ephesians 6:3 ESV, Romans 1
Beth is married to Joe Ferreira and mom to three vibrant girls. She got her BA in Religious Studies at Oklahoma Baptist University many moons ago. Now, Beth enjoys staying home with her girls and works and writes part-time for Fort Worth Moms Blog.