Being a Parenting Pharisee
Too often I’m waaay more concerned about the outward appearance of my children, than what is going on on their hearts. I’m more concerned about the impression my kids give others about me than what is really important, the growth in their hearts. I make sure they’re dressed appropriately for the occasion and that I’ve coached them on the their behavior. Hoping that they ultimately won’t embarrass me.
A few years ago our son Sam was in Cub Scouts and their pack was to meet with the town mayor and city council. I had Sam dressed in his uniform, with shirt tucked in, coached him about his behavior, and instructed him on appropriate things to say and ask. What I didn’t take into account was his current obsession with what he wanted to be when he grew up. At the end of the session the mayor asked the group what they wanted to be when they grew up. Sam’s hand shot straight up and was waving frantically. Immediately I saw what was going to happen. I wasn’t worried about how he would appear with his answer, but with how I as his dad would look. I started sweating and hoping that they mayor wouldn’t call on him. In fact, I was praying he wouldn’t get called on. But, the mayor called on him. “Young man, what would you like to be when you grow up?” Sam stood up proudly and announced, to a room full of scout leaders, parents, and city officials, “I want to be an assassin for the government.” I tried to hide, but immediately everyone who knew me as Sam’s dad, looked my way. Fortunately, most everyone laughed and the mayor in a graceful way replied that we need courageous young men in the military.
I share that story not because I thought that I had failed in parenting Sam, but because I was a parenting pharisee.
Pharisees in the bible were concerned about the outward appearance, keeping up rituals, doing the right things at the right time.
Pharisees in the bible were concerned about the outward appearance, keeping up rituals, doing the right things at the right time. They were so concerned about appearance they had forgotten (or chose to ignore) that God is more concerned with the heart. The inside stuff, the reason why you do what you do, not necessarily what you do. Jesus even told them that they were beautiful caskets full of rotting flesh. Ouch. If I’m honest with myself, I’m right there with them too. I’m often more concerned about the appearance of the product (my children) than I am with the process of heart change.
Parenting isn’t about a product, its about the process.
You could do everything perfectly (which you can’t) in parenting and still end up with a “bad” product. Your child still makes their own choices regardless of how you brought them up. They can still choose to do drugs, enter bad relationships, make mistakes. It’s in our nature. Keeping a “10,000 foot view” of the parenting years is tough. Going from wall to wall diapers to walking, to talking, to school, to their friends, to homework and after school activities it’s easy to miss the forest for the trees. It’s easy to parent in the moment. It’s easy to parent for immediate results and not lifetime character. It’s easy to parent for outward appearance and compliance. [pullquote]Andy Stanley once said, “Parent to preserve your relationship not to preserve your reputation.”[/pullquote]
I haven’t been a parent long, just over 11 years, but its becoming more apparent to me that parenting is as much about me as it is about my children. The process of parenting has changed who I am. Parenting has helped me see my growth in the long term too. I have learned more about the character of God through parenting. I have learned more about how selfish I am. I have learned that I can’t take responsibility for the failures of my children, no more than I can take responsibility for the good that they do. Their “goodness” and “badness” is theirs. And God has dealt with it. If we continue to judge our parenting by the perceived quality of the end product we will quickly become consumed by failure. So don’t dwell on the “goodness” or “badness” you think you might see in your kids, that’s all been put into perspective by God anyway, concentrate on the process. Keep your head above the trees and look long term as you parent.
Put an edge to your life.