Many parents have what I like to call the “Beatles philosophy of parenting”: all you need is love. And with all of the (generally unsolicited) advice out there for parents, I can understand the allure. How are we supposed to discern the legitimate parenting gems from the downright garbage? Far better to simply love our kids and hope for the best… right?
Not really. With parenting—as in every relationship—we need to face the hard fact that love is not enough. Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m not downplaying love. Love is essential for a parent-child relationship. No relationship between parents and their kids should consist of less than love; but it should also consist of much more.
The problem is not with love in itself, but in the watered-down way we think about love. When we talk about “loving” our children, we usually mean something like affection. We are fond of them (most of the time!) and want what is best for them. But all of us know parents that despite having affection for their kids are still crummy parents. (Let’s be honest: most of us parents can think of times when despite our affection, we were that crummy parent!) We need something more than emotion: we need not only the heart of God, but also the mind of God.
Even for those Christians who want to know the mind of God on parenting, most of us aren’t sure where to start. Our parenting is a reaction to the messes and mistakes our children are making all around us. We never wanted to be reactionary parents, yet it feels like that’s all we have the energy to do. So at the end of the day, as our bedraggled heads hit our pillows, we hope that the vague positive regard we have for our kids will be enough.
The good news is that God hasn’t hung us out to dry. He designed parenting to a better, more fulfilling job than many people are experiencing right now. And, thankfully, he’s given us the tools to know his plan for rearing children. In several passages of Scripture, God shows us not only how we ought to be raising our children, but—more importantly—the reason God gave us our children in the first place.
Psalm 127 tells us that our children are like arrows. God gave them to us to launch them into God’s mission, and that must always be in our mind. Are we willing to let the arrows of our children fly? Are we willing to let them go wherever God wishes to send them? Take a step back from the urgent call of spilled Cheerios, math tests, broken curfews, or college applications, and you can begin to seek the mind of God on how and where to shoot the arrows God has entrusted to you.