Everyone has parents and many of us are or will become parents. The parent-child relationship is one of the most profound and important in life.
? I have watched a mother with a week-old baby.
? I have watched a boy play baseball as if his Dad was the only spectator in the
? I have heard a woman of nearly 100 years crying out for her Mama from her
nursing home bed.
? I have witnessed the grief of children burying their parents and of parents burying
Some of us speak of our parents as if they are gods. Some of us speak of our parents as if they are devils.
Some of us define our lives with delight in our children. Some of us have children who have broken our hearts.
Let there be no doubt that a healthy attitude toward parents and parenting is one of the most important of life. These attitudes shape many of the rest of our attitudes of life including our attitude toward God.
I. God values families
The place to begin a healthy attitude is with the values of God?and God greatly values families.
? When God created humans in his own likeness, God placed Adam and Eve in a set-up to build a family. It was part of God?s original design. He didn?t want his human creatures to be alone.
? When God distilled the essence of Old Testament law into Ten Commandments he put the command to honor parents right in the middle (5th Commandment). He considered parents and parenting among the most important values of all.
? When God sent his one and only Son to earth he put him into a human family with a Mom and a Dad.
? When God chose from all the names and relationships in our human vocabulary to describe himself, he chose the title "Father".
? When families fail, God steps in. Psalm 68:5 = "A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling."
God created the family with parents and children as the basic structure of human nurture and of lasting relationships. That said, we can all immediately think of families gone wrong (dysfunction; divorce; death). Just because families are not ideal doesn?t mean that the concept isn?t right. We understand that eyes are to see and ears are to hear?just because someone is blind or deaf doesn?t mean eyes and ears are less important. If anything, the malfunction proves the value all the more.
Whenever you think of your parents or of parenting remember that God is on your side working to make it as good as can be.
Elisa Morgan is president of MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) International:
I?m probably the least likely person to head a mothering organization. I grew up in a broken home. My parents were divorced when I was 5. My older sister, younger brother, and I were raised by my alcoholic mother.
While my mother meant well?truly she did?most of my memories are of my mothering her rather than her mothering me. Alcohol altered her love, turning it into something that wasn?t love. I remember her weaving down the hall of our ranch home in Houston, Texas, glass of scotch in hand. She would wake me at 2 a.m. just to make sure I was asleep. I would wake her at 7 a.m. to try to get her off to work.
Sure, there were good times like Christmas and birthdays when she went all out and celebrated us as children. But even those days ended with the warped glow of alcohol. What she did right was lost in what she did wrong.
Ten years ago, when I was asked to consider leading MOPS International, a vital ministry that nurtures mothers, I went straight to my knees?and then to the therapist?s office. How could God use me?who had never been mothered?to nurture other mothers?
The answer came as I gazed into the eyes of other moms around me and saw their needs mirroring my own. God seemed to take my deficits and make them my offering?"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Cor. 12:9).
What made the difference? God made the difference because God values families. God steps in to stop the abuse and dysfunction that would otherwise spread from generation to generation.
A healthy Christian attitude toward parents and parenting begins with a clear conviction that God values families. Next, is the realization that parents aren?t perfect.
II. Parents aren?t perfect
My own thought journey on parents and parenting has been like many others. As a young child I thought my parents were perfect because I didn?t know any better. When I became a young adult I saw my parents? imperfections as I had never seen them before and was determined I would do better if I ever became a parent myself. When I became a parent I thought I was perfect until our children started behaving in ways that surprised me. The older I get the more keenly I am aware of my parental failures and the more sympathetic is my attitude toward my own parents.
One young mother was near the point of total frustration with her little girl?s misbehavior?she was like a preschool terrorist. One day the mom told her daughter that if she kept behaving like this someday God would punish her by giving her a misbehaving daughter of her own. The little girl thought for a moment and then said, "Wow, Mom, you must have been awful when you were my age!"
Our generation has blamed many of our problems on our parents. Some of the blame is justified. Parents influence almost every aspect of our lives. They give us language, values, culture and sometimes-strange ideas. And, often they don?t know what they are doing and don?t know what they have done.
One of the most painful experiences of some adults? lives is when they go back to confront a parent over some distant misbehavior that has profoundly impacted life only to learn that the parent doesn?t remember anything about it.
I remember an Ann Landers column in which a writer complained about the bad influence her mother had on her for the first ten years of her life. Ann replied that the writer had 30 years since then to make her own decisions and to quit blaming her mother.
The truth is probably somewhere in between. Mothers influence us for all of our lives but we are still responsible for our own response to whatever our mother?s influence may have been. Some of us have terrible mothers and choose to be different. Some have wonderful mothers and we choose to reject their high values. The choice is ours and so is the ultimate responsibility.
As children (young and old) we need to judge our parents appropriately. There are no perfect parents. Our parents were figuring things out as they were doing them. Parenting is on going and dynamic. Some parenting is good and some is bad.
There is another side to parental imperfection. Some of us as parents beat up on ourselves because we know our failures all too well. We see the problems our children face in life and wish we could turn back the clock and do a better job. I know parents who are almost despondent because of their children?s poor grades, bad behavior, sexual misconduct, drug abuse or lack of Christian faith. I do not minimize the pain this causes Mom and Dad?but parents must realize that all their children?s problems in life aren?t because of them. Our children make their own choices. Some very good parents have very bad children; some very bad parents have very good children. We should be the best parents we can be to please God and to increase the odds for our children to turn out well, but there are no guarantees!
Earlier I said that there are no perfect parents. Actually there once was one. Perfect parent. Perfect home. Messed up kids! The parent was God. The home was Eden. The kids were Adam and Eve. Not even perfect parents have perfect children.
So, what?s the point of all this? When it comes to parents and parenting remember that we are all sinners. We do our best and we trust God but we make a whole catalog of mistakes. So, if you are a parent?cut yourself some slack. And, if your parents messed up?forgive them.
III. Forgiveness is needed
1. All parents need forgiveness. It?s a healthy thing to do. It is the Christian thing to do. Forgiveness is one of the most powerful tools in the toolbox for building healthy attitudes.
2. Colossians 3:8
Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
Lord?s Prayer (Luke 11:14)
Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
3. Some children need to forgive their parents of little things.
My grandfather?s name was "Charles Anderson". He named my father "Charles Anderson". When I was about eight years old I sat in a large audience while my father was speaking and heard him say that he didn?t like his name. He said he didn?t like the name Charles. No one should be named Charles. He said, "I wouldn?t name a dog Charles." My middle name is Charles.
So what do I do with that? I could change my name. I could buy a dog named Charles. I could blame every warped part of my personality on my father?s words. Or, I could forgive him and let it go. I decided to forgive him and to break the cycle of Charles-naming in the family by not naming any of our children Charles.
4. Some children need to forgive their parents of big things.
Paul Hegstrom wrote a book called Broken Children, Grown-Up Pain. He begins the book with his autobiography. His story is filled with awful pain. He became an angry, controlling, unstable, abusive man. He moved often. He abused his wife starting the day after they were married in high school. He divorced her without telling her. His life was a wreck.
He traces the start of his problems back to when he was nine years old and asked his mother what would happen if his friend Tommy was molested by an older man. "My mother immediately washed my mouth out with soap and reprimanded me for even asking about sex. I wouldn?t make that mistake again. But ?Tommy? wasn?t the child with the problem?. I was the one who had been sexually molested. As a child, I was in no way equipped to deal with my loss of innocence, and I immediately lost my sense of safety, my trust in my parents, and every ounce of self-worth a nine-year-old could have."
5. Some sins are easy to forgive. Some take a very long process. But there is an indescribable power to forgiving. It is as good or better for the forgiver than the one forgiven. It is a way to let go of anger, hated and resentment. It is a way to move on with a healthy life. It is a way to be like God.
6. Exodus 20:12 (5th Commandment)
"Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you."
Honoring doesn?t mean agreement or endorsement. We can and should honor our parents as persons and parents but that doesn?t mean that we condone everything they do.
7. Just as God distinguishes between loving the sinner and hating the sin, so we can love parents and hate parental sin. Just as God?s love for sinners leads to forgiveness of sin, so our love of parents should lead to forgiveness.
You may be an adult whose parents are older or have died. To obey God and to have a healthy attitude, you can still forgive them.
8. The biblical principles equally apply to children. Just as all children need to forgive parents, all parents need to forgive children. In fact, our apologizing to our children ad asking their forgiveness is a significant lesson to teach them how to forgive and have a healthy attitude toward Mom and Dad.
IV. God loves our children
1. Although the list for having a healthy attitude toward parents and parenting could be far longer, let?s add just one more for today. It is that God loves our children. Actually, it is the healthy realization of every Christian parent that God loves our children more than we do. God wants the best for our children more than we do.
2. Matthew 19:13-15
Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them.
Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for
the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.
3. But it isn?t just little children whom God loves. The whole point of the Bible is that God so loved us and our children that he gave his one and only Son. If God loves our children enough to sacrifice his Son, we need never doubt that God is completely and irrevocably committed to the greatest good in their lives.
There is no one in my life for whom I have prayed more than our four children. I love them and want the best for them. I prayed for them before they were born, all of their lives so far and will pray and love them until the day I die. But, I must tell you that I find great joy, comfort and hope in knowing that God loves them more than I love them, God wants good for them far more than I want good for them, that they are his children far more than they are my children.
1. Why is all this important? It is important because family relationships impact every part of our lives. Healthy attitudes about parents and parenting foster healthy Christian attitudes throughout the rest of us.
2. But there is another very important reason. Our family attitudes often shape our attitudes and relationships to God.
Those with good attitudes toward fathers on earth have good attitudes toward our Father in heaven.
Those who carry bitterness, resentment and alienated relationships with family here often struggle to have a positive relationship with God and with other Christians.
I am not suggesting that we have to fix our families to be right with God. To the contrary, I suggest we get right with God to have healthy Christian attitudes toward our parents and families.
3. I would like to pray for you and your family relationships.
God, our Father, thank you for showing us what a truly good Parent is like. Thank you for loving us so fully and unconditionally. Thank you for forgiving us so generously.
Thank you for our families?for our parents and for our children. Fill us with gratitude for all your blessings and fill us with faith for all our concerns.
Shape our attitudes and bless our relationships. We are all children whether young or old?help us honor our parents as a way to honor you. And, for all of us who now have or will someday have children, make us the best parents we can be. May we be just like you.
We ask for your blessing, our Father, in the name of your Son. Amen