Parenting = Shepherding a Child’s Heart

“Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from Him.” (Psalm 127:3 NLT)

It is truly a great privilege to be a parent to a child. With it comes great responsibilities too. For it is God who has given us this privilege, to shepherd the child/children He has so graciously blessed us with, in His will. We are now a model for our child, who is constantly learning, studying and following us as an example. It is through our actions, our words, and our responses (even in silence), that she gets her understanding (no matter how little) of how to live in this fallen world, of what living a life is about, but most importantly, of how great and awesome God is.

“Motherhood is more than a phase in life. It is a lifelong calling from God. With it, He gives us hearts that love deeply, hands that serve tirelessly, and vision to see His blossoming image in the precious ones entrusted to our care.” 

John 1:16

God is LOVE! It is our responsibility to love her with all the God-given capacity within our hearts; to guide her in an environment filled with love; to teach her and demonstrate to her what it is to love – all in the hope that she may catch a glimpse of who God is, and how much God loves her, even before she was born.

“Children do not accidentally become righteous leaders or emotionally healthy and productive adults – any more than seeds thrown randomly to the wind, grow to be part of a thriving garden. Simply throwing children into a cultural tornado and hoping for the best gives them little chance of living up to their potential or coming out unharmed. Someone needs to take responsibility for their nurture, protection, nourishment, intellectual development, manners, recreation, personal needs, and spiritual development. Someone needs to commit time and energy into staying close to them as they grow, encouraging them,  correcting them and teaching them.”

– Sally Clarkson

Turn to God’s Word to be our Guide to Parenting

Many parents rely on experience (their own and/or learning from others) as their guide to parenting their children. Besides referring to parents with more than one child, this also includes first-time parents with no prior experience in child rearing, who usually learn from their parents’ or friends’ experiences. However, experience can be contradicting as well as widely-varied depending on multiple factors of which the parent is exposed to. Thus, experience is not a safe guide to rely upon.

The only safe guide is the Bible – The Word of God, that is robust and complete. It is the revelation of God Himself, who has infinite knowledge and can therefore guide us with absolute truth. It presents an accurate and comprehensive picture of children, parents, family life, values, nurture and chastisement – everything we need to excel in and complete the task of parenting.

As Christians, we can turn to the Word of God as our guide on parenting our children. The Bible reminds us that children are precious to us. It is important to read the Bible to glean what it has to say about the awesome opportunity we have to be parents. As believers we must keep a Biblical worldview instead of a humanistic worldview in order to maintain a Godly culture in our homes which then impacts our community.

Understanding this God-given Authority as a Parent

God calls us by His Word to be authorities to our children in a benevolent, gracious, loving and kind manner. Following the example of Jesus Christ, He is the Sovereign Lord who possesses all authority, who came to serve, and not to be served. Like Him, we as parents ought to exercise authority over our children in a kind and loving way that is not self-serving, controlling and unreasonable. Instead, the purpose for our authority in the lives of our children is to empower them to be self-controlled people living freely under the authority of God. Freedom is not found in autonomy, freedom is found in obedience.

“I will keep on obeying Your instructions forever and ever. I will walk in freedom, for I have devoted myself to Your commandments.” (Psalms 119:44, 45 NLT)

Parenting Defined

In our culture, many people do not have a Biblical understanding of authority, resulting in parents losing sight on purposefully shepherding their children. This task requires more than simply providing care for our children by giving them adequate food, clothing, shelter, quality time, tending to their daily needs, etc. because God has called us to a more profound task than being only a primary care provider (sadly, in an affluent country like Singapore, some of these tasks are even shared with domestic helpers). The task God has given us is not one that can be conveniently scheduled according to the parents’ available time. It is a pervasive task. Training and shepherding is a perennial process that happen simultaneously whenever we are with our children, whether waking, walking, talking or resting, we must be involved in helping our children understand life, themselves and their needs from a biblical perspective.

“And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.” (Deuteronomy 6:6, 7 NLT)

This shepherding process is a richer and far more rounded interaction than telling the child what to do and say, and how they should behave in public. It involves investing our lives in our children in open and honest communication that unfolds the meaning and purpose of life. As the shepherd, we want to help our children understand themselves as creatures made by and for God. These things cannot be shown to them by mere instructions, we must lead them on a path of discovery, we must shepherd their thoughts, helping them to learn discernment and wisdom. Values and spiritual vitality are not simply taught, but caught!

Parenting is shepherding the hearts of our children in the ways of God.

Keeping the Gospel in Focus

The central focus of parenting is the gospel. It is our responsibility to direct not just the behaviour of our children, but the attitudes of their hearts, for the heart determines behaviour. (Proverbs 4:23) The behaviour a person exhibits is an expression of the overflow of the heart.

Proverbs 4:23

The goal of parenting cannot simply be to raise well-behaved children. Moreover, in the culture we live in, many parents require obedience of their children mainly to satisfy their own needs of convenience and ease, as well as the “pride” they pride themselves to be able to raise well-behaved children.

Keeping the gospel in focus, is more than helping our children know forgiveness of sin through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. In the gospel, there is the promise of internal transformation and empowerment. With the gospel, we can help our children see that God works from the inside out. We can help them understand why they behave in a certain way (sin) and how to recognize internal change. The gospel enables us and our children to face the worst in ourselves (our sin, our badness, our weakness) and yet still find hope, because the grace of our merciful God is powerful.

It is not certain that our children will become believers. However, we have the faith to trust in God, for the gospel is powerful and attractive. It uniquely meets the needs of fallen humanity. Ultimately, the Word of God holds the power to bring about the conversion of the soul by conviction of sin.

“The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.” (Psalms 19:7-9 KJV)

We, as parents, have a marvelous opportunity to help our children pursue with honesty all the questions relating to faith in Jesus Christ. The Word of God is robust; the Christian faith can withstand close, honest scrutiny. J and I are committed to shepherding Baby E’s heart, and leading her on the way to understanding life, herself, and putting others’ needs before hers, in the hope that she may find God, and know Him personally, seek after Him and walk in His ways, glorifying God all the days of her life.

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