The Sanctifying Work of Parenthood
A friend recently asked me if I could give her some parenting advice. I smiled and said that I couldn’t because I’m not an expert and don’t know really what I am doing. She laughed and remarked on the ways parenting humbles us. My friend did not realize just how true her statement was. For many years, I taught, counseled, advised, and trained parents in the raising of their children. It’s a remarkable testimony to God’s grace toward me that I’ve come to a point in my own parenting where I am not at the ready to give advice.
Many people describe marriage as the laboratory where our spiritual growth is fostered and developed. I find it to be equally true of parenting as well. God has used parenting in my life to refine and change me in ways I had not anticipated. He’s given me a child who requires more than I was trained to handle so that I would depend on him and not my own strength. I’ve also learned things about myself I never knew and have seen things in my heart I never wanted to see. I’ve come face to face with sins I didn’t know were buried deep inside, sins like impatience, selfishness, irritability, and discontent. While uncomfortable and sometimes downright painful, the sanctifying work of parenthood has been necessary and good.
Away with the Independence
Parenthood is an ideal place for sanctification in our lives. It’s an area of our life which we so desperately try to control. In a culture which relies on instant access to knowledge and facts, many of us turn to blogs, articles, tweets, and pins to find the solutions to the everyday challenges of raising children. We rely on our books, systems, and programs and when they fail, we despair or begin the search all over again. At least that’s what I’ve done.
And then God opened my eyes to see that something else was going on beneath the surface of my parenting challenges. I learned the reason why parenthood is often so hard — God uses parenthood to strip away our independence and the sin that keeps us from abiding in him. My true need wasn’t to find the perfect ‘get your child to sleep’ system or the best potty training program or even the top ten ways to get my kids to clean up after themselves, rather it was to see my desperate need to rely on the grace of God. Many times I sought joy and contentment in how perfectly behaved my children are or how smoothly my day went. Yet God knew that what I needed most is only found in him.
While I searched for ways to make parenting easier, God sent me deeper into the refiner’s fire, bringing mothering challenges in my life to point me to him, my only true source of joy and satisfaction.
Some days, the refining process is painful and I want to say, “God, aren’t you finished with me yet?” On those days where I play referee more than I care, when young minds cannot seem to stay on task in school, and when the dryer breaks, yet again, I wonder why motherhood has to be so hard. But then I remember the gospel and God’s great love for me. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him” (Hebrews 12:5). He doesn’t want to leave me where I am — he has something better in store. None of the challenges I face as a mother is wasted. None. He uses each and every one in the story of his gospel’s triumph in my life.
His goal isn’t to make my life comfortable, safe, and predictable, but to make me holy. “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Romans 8:29–30)
Abandoned to His Work
Maybe you’ve found yourself there too. Life doesn’t seem to work the way you thought it would. Your children aren’t perfect, you are short on patience, and you don’t remember the last time you’ve had a decent night’s sleep. Know that God is at work in the midst of each and every rough day and parenting challenge.
Be vulnerable and abandon yourself to the work of his hand. See the sin he reveals in you and bring it straight to the cross. Remember that Jesus died for each and every parenting blunder you have done and will do in the future. Seek your joy in him and rely on his strength and wisdom alone. Find your hope in this truth, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).