When I tell my oldest son that I love him, he often responds, “I love you more!” But I know there’s no possible way he could love me more. I am the parent; he is the child. The love between us originated with me before he even had the ability to love. One day, Lord willing, he will have his own children, and then he will understand that a child’s love is only a shadow of a parent’s love.
Your love for your children compels you to meet their needs, choose the best path for them even if it’s a hard one, delight in them, and teach them the values you deem important. Yet, your love is still imperfect. There are days when your love for your kids isn’t enough to keep you from yelling, help you let go of your to-do list to spend time interacting with them, or help you put their needs before your own. There are days when the requirements of motherhood feel like more than your love can give.
Even when equipped with one of the deepest kinds of human love—the love of a mother for a child—you always fall short of perfect love. You put your desires first. You expect your children to fill a void for love and acceptance in your life. You take the easy route when the hard one is the best for your children in the long run.
Even at its very best, the love of a mom for a child is a shadow of the perfect love of God.
Parent like your Perfect Parent
I have an awesome earthly father. He's godly, loving, hard-working, and self-sacrificing. But my dad had a terrible earthly father. He was a con-man who slept around and eventually abandoned his wife and five kids in poverty when my dad was eight. They never heard from him again. Because my dad had no earthly example, he had to rely on learning to love his kids through the example of his heavenly Father.
With two loving, godly parents, it's been a pitfall in my own parenting to rely too much on who they are and how they loved me and not enough on who God is and how he loves me. My parenting is only transformed through knowing the love of my heavenly Father myself. As much as I love and respect my mom and dad, they are not perfect parents. Only God is.
Knowing God as your heavenly Father—not the good or bad examples you may have in your own parents—is the first step to your own parenting transformation.
1. Your heavenly Father is perfectly in control.
In a world where we are responsible for the health and happiness of our children, God's love is a gift because it reminds us that we aren't in charge. He created this world, he created us, he created our children, and he is in control. His sovereignty is not separate from his love for us. The circumstances of our parenting are being guided by his love for us and our children.
He is your Father, and he’s not afraid to present you with hard circumstances that are ultimately the best things for you and your children. Your child with a learning disability? Best. The loss of your job? Best. At-home schooling? Best. Your child not making the team after spending all summer practicing? Best. In a world that encourages idolizing comfort, it takes a long time to realize that God's best isn’t the easy thing, but it’s what draws you nearer to him.
Knowing the loving sovereignty of your heavenly Father transforms your parenting because you no longer have to bear the burden of making sure your child's life is perfect, because no matter the circumstances your children are faced with, they come from the loving heart of the God who knows them best.
2. Your heavenly Father is a perfect provider.
The circumstances of parenting often feel like an impossible burden. We're carrying the load of not only our own problems, but also those of our children. We want to escape from the challenge of careful discipline, the endless peacemaking between siblings, and the weight of so clearly seeing our child's sin and our own. So we escape to our phones, our jobs, food and drink, or vacations. If we can just forget about our children for a moment, we might feel better.
But these escapes are exactly that—momentary. If you run to your heavenly Father, who provides for sparrows (Matt. 6:26) and supplies all your needs with the riches of the gospel (Phil. 4:19), your well will not run dry. Through the knowledge of Jesus, you have everything you need to do life with godliness (2 Pet. 1:3). When you're exhausted by parenting, seek your escape in the arms of your heavenly Father.
3. Your heavenly Father offers perfect discipline.
Parents know about discipline. Some days it feels like the only thing we do. We know that discipline is more than anger-induced punishment. We know that good discipline is about helping our children grow and mature. It includes teaching them what God's truth is instead of letting them make up their own. It means setting boundaries when the world tells our children there are no limits. It might even mean withholding good things so they might experience the best instead of treating them to everything they desire.
We know these things because we've experienced the loving discipline of God. Because he loves us, he allows discomfort for the goal of growth. He wants us to become what he has already declared us to be: righteous, holy, and free. He is not afraid to make hard decisions so we might mature in holiness. "For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it (Heb. 12:10–11). No matter what our own parents were like, we have a Father whose discipline will yield the peaceful fruit of righteousness in our lives, and from that fruit, the way we discipline our own children is transformed.
PArenting Transformation through God’s Perfect Love
Experiencing the perfect love of our heavenly Father creates good fruit in our lives. We can’t exhibit the fruit of the Spirit if we aren’t walking in the Spirit. We can’t demonstrate the gospel to our children if we are not living in the gospel ourselves. The best parents are not the ones with the perfect earthly examples but those who walk in the love of the only perfect Parent. It is when we experience this love that truly knows what’s best for us, provides for all our needs, and disciplines us so we grow in righteousness that the changes in our hearts lead to transformed parenting.