Parenting from Faith, not Fear

Dear Leah,

You woke up in the middle of the night worrying about one of your kids. The details are not necessary for this letter. Suffice it to say, you began to worry that without your strong intervention, your kid would eventually end up a certain way that you don’t want him to end up.

You were thinking about habits and tendencies in your child, and you began to fear that with no action on your part, your child would continue to “self-destruct” in a sense. You thought without your help, he would continue to make poor choices and become someone you do not want him to become.

So, in your mind, you immediately began to grasp for control. You thought of some things you would begin to “make” him do each day. And you thought of several things you would absolutely make him STOP doing each day. And you thought of punishments and bribes and reward systems. Ideas about how to tighten the reigns on your child flooded your mind. “Come hell or highwater, this is how it will be from now on… because I will not have a {fill in the blank} child. I will not let you self-destruct.”

 Ah, control. You began to feel a sense of control. Control makes you feel like you have the power to change something. It makes you feel like YOU are in the driver’s seat in the world and in your child’s life. Control promises that YOU can make your child’s life turn out how you want it to turn out. Its cousin is anxiety.

And praise the good Lord, you realized within a few minutes down this thought trail that this kind of control will most definitely backfire. It might backfire tomorrow. It might not backfire until your kid is in college, but it will backfire. Young children may submit to overly controlling parents out of fear or because they are smart enough to realize that submission is the path of least resistance, but they will not have learned anything… except perhaps that their parents don’t trust them.

How does one control this?

What’s not to trust?

And how does one control this?

And how does one control this?

 

You realized quite readily that it was fear driving this need for control. And you began to realize that the fear was already causing you to think about your child differently. Without realizing it, you had already blown his “issue” out of proportion, imagining that he was already as “far gone” as you feared he would be in the future. So you spoke to your fear and the lies that fueled it, and you recognized that it was not the entire truth. Your child isn’t entirely {XYZ}, and if he is not entirely XYZ now, there’s no reason to believe he will be entirely XYZ in the future.

Then you took an honest look at yourself. You realized that these fears about your child almost certainly expose your own flaws. The areas you want to control in your child may just be the exact areas that you can’t seem to control in your own life. Perhaps they are not, but it was worth examining, so you did. When you were honest with yourself, you realized your anxious grasps for control of the outcome of your child’s future found their roots in your own personal struggles and insecurities. You see now that trying to “fix” your child instead of addressing your own flaws and faithlessness is ineffective at best, hypocrisy at worst. You realize that rule number one when you want someone else to change is to examine why and how their issue threatens you.

So do you fix yourself and ignore your child? Not quite, though it’s better than trying to fix your child and ignore yourself. But you know that if you could really fix those things in yourself, you would have already done it. You are completely incomplete. And if this is true about you, who are you to try to fix your child?

But you remember there is hope! There is so much hope. You actually have a Parent who is NOT incomplete. In fact, He is fully complete, with no flaws and no shortcomings. And when He looked on YOU and saw your incompleteness, He didn’t lay down laws and heavy burdens for you to carry. He didn’t oppress you with his power and put you in shackles and chains so you would change. He didn’t withhold his love until you fixed your problems.

No, He chose, instead to give you his life, his SON. He met you exactly where you were. He gave his Son’s life for you, and in doing so He made you completely complete. When He sees you now, He doesn’t see your imperfections, your incompleteness, your nakedness, or your flaws. He doesn’t tally your mistakes. When he looks at you, he sees a completely complete person, clothed in his righteousness and perfection alone. And guess what! What GOD the Father SEES, that’s REALITY. So it’s not like you are really awful but God doesn’t see that… no, what God SEES is what is… so you REALLY ARE COMPLETE, RIGHTEOUS, PERFECT in Him.

You remember 1 John 3:1-3. You remember that your final destiny is to look exactly like Jesus and that the PATH to that destiny is to believe God’s promise that it will be so.

And all of the sudden, you have new hope for your child. You don’t need to fix him. You don’t need to control him. You only need to do what your Father did for you. You need to see him with new eyes. You need to lavish love upon him exactly as he is and watch him change as he realizes that nothing he does can take away that love, though he might test it. You need to focus more on your relationship with him than his behavior. You will delight in his God-given gifts and talents, and you will let love cover a multitude of his sins and shortcomings.

You will lead him as the Holy Spirit leads you, but you will not grasp for control, and you will not focus on his crap while ignoring your own. Of course you will be the parent, and you will give fair consequences and adequate training. But hopeful expectation in God’s promises, rather than fear, will be the motive of your actions as your child’s parent.

Also, you may want to save this letter. I have a feeling this won’t be the last time you need to read it. You will lay down your desire to control over and over for the next several years. Whoop whoop!

Love,

Leah

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