The Blessings (and Struggles) of Parenting
Last Sunday, Brother Jeremy preached a Mother’s Day message that spoke to me as a father. It’s funny how God does that. The preacher prepares a message focusing on a specific audience, but God is always sure to speak to others as well. I was one of the others that God spoke to.
Psalm 127:3-5: Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; they shall not be ashamed, but shall speak with their enemies in the gate.
I am not saying that I need more arrows in my quiver. Three (or maybe four) is enough to keep me plenty busy! I will say though, that I truly feel blessed to have my quiver as full as I do, because at one point I wasn’t sure if I would have any arrows in my quiver at all. When my wife and I decided that it was time to expand our family, we thought that it would be easy. We were only a year into our marriage and we were both young. After trying to become pregnant for a couple years and various fertility tests and treatments, we decided that having our “own” children was not in our story at that time.
Long story short, we adopted our first son through the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). Our second son was a bit of a wonderful Christmas surprise. We found out that we were going to be having a baby after trying for five years! Our most recent child was a mix of both. She was adopted as a frozen embryo and my wife got to carry and deliver her.
God, and only God, provides parents with children; though not always in the way that we envision. Take notice, earlier in this blog I put quotation marks around the word “own.” I believe that because God is the provider of our children, all of our children, no matter how they come to us, are our OWN!
Now, I want to talk about the other side of parenting that we often don’t talk about publicly… discipline.
Hebrews 12:11: No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Disciplining my children is never fun. Each time I am faced with the need to correct them I try to look at the situation from every angle, hopeful that discipline will be unnecessary. It’s not that I want my kids to get away with misbehavior, but sometimes it’s easier to turn a blind eye and hope the issue will fix itself. The problem with that pattern of thinking is, it seldom fixes itself and I usually have to deliver discipline anyway in the end. I am still learning how to be a good disciplinarian, and I probably will never get it 100% right all of the time. The thing is, in my case, there is a fine line between lovingly disciplining, and provoking my children to anger in my frustration.
Ephesians 6:4: Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.
I would consider myself to be a good dad, but I have my weaknesses that are glaringly evident. My biggest flaw is my short fuse. At times, I struggle to show patience to my children. I will occasionally lose my cool and dole out a punishment without taking the time to consider my attitude toward the situation. It especially happens with my oldest son. I love him very much, but we are very similar in temperament and there is some sort of polarization between us that causes us to butt heads. In those moments, unfortunately, I do not think of Paul’s message to the church of Ephesus about fathers not provoking their children to anger. I will chew him out and he will get angry, which will make me angrier. This back and forth will continue until I begin to realize (often with the help of my loving wife) that I am not following Paul’s admonition. At times like this, I am very grateful for my wife because, without her, I fear that I could push my children away. I never want any of my kids to feel as though I don’t love them, and at such a tender age, the anger and frustration that I show could make them feel that way.
My goal is not to treat this blog as a confessional. Instead, I hope that it is read by other parents out there who may be struggling with the same weakness. I am constantly working to be a better father to my three wonderful children, and I know that at times I will fail. I just hope and pray that in those times of failure, God will give me the strength and patience to handle the situation in a more loving way. It is a godly thing to discipline our children, but we always need to ask ourselves how God would want us to do it. I thank God for my children multiple times a day and every time I go in their bedrooms to check on them at night. I hope and pray that when I am done raising them, they will remember me as a dad that provided godly discipline when necessary, and that loved them with my whole heart.
Proverbs 22:6: Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.
– Donovan Stark, MSBC Deacon