Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A Liberating Book About Parenting

I have been wanting to write about this book for months. I started reading it while pregnant with Miriam and was two chapters shy of finishing it when she was born. I have finally gotten around to finishing it, even though I have thought of it so often since her birth, pondering it's contents. This book is honest. It's real. And, it's Bible-based- not in the ways you are thinking. This author points out different stories, different verses from the Bible than we are often used to hearing about when it comes to parenting.

The book is called "Parenting is Your Highest Calling" And 8 Other Myths That Trap Us in Worry and Guilt. The second part of the title being the most crucial. It is written by Leslie Leyland Fields. Here is what the back of the book has to say...

"Why am I not a more joyful parent?
Why aren't my kids turning out as expected?
Why do I feel as if I'm not doing enough for my children?
Is parenting supposed to be this difficult?

As a mother of six, author Leslie Leyland Fields knows firsthand the insecurities and questions that comes with rearing children. In this provocative book, she explores with refreshing honesty nine myths that can lead to unrealistic expectations and that distract us from God's purposes for our children and for us, including:

Myth #1: Having children brings happiness and fulfillment.
Myth #4: Good parenting leads to happy children.
Myth #5: If parenting is difficult, you're not following the right plan.
Myth #7: You will always feel love for your child.
Myth #8: Your success as a parent can be measured by your child's behavior.

Through a close look at God's own life as a parent as well as stories from real-life families, Fields highlights the transforming biblical truths that release parents from the grip of mistaken assumptions. Fresh, provocative insights will lead you to a deeper understanding of God and yourself-an understanding that lifts the weight of guilt and fear and frees you to love your children as God intended.  Includes interactive questions for individuals, couples or groups."

I believe this book holds wisdom for all parents- those with young ones, teenagers, those not yet born and parents of adult children.

I would quote the entire book if I could. I would love for all of you to go out and buy or borrow this book, but I know some of you can't or won't. I understand. In case you don't (or even if you do), I wanted to include here some of my favorite quotes in hopes that they will be as liberating for you as they've been for me.

"...I remembered that the Old Testament records God's parental relationship as one of great desire, incomprehensible love, unending compassion- yet Israel's response to this perfect love was disobedience. One particular verse leaped out at me: "all day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people" (Isaiah 65:2).... In this verse and throughout the Scriptures, we seldom see God as a happy, blithe parent. We see instead God hungering for more.... This almighty God, ruler of the universe, who holds kings' hearts in his hands. The same God reveals himself to us as a hurting and tender Father who longs for a deeper relationship with his children.... We see God allowing his heart to be broken again and again by our failures. What kind of God is this? Not a God lessened in omnipotence. Not a God who has failed as a parent, though our twenty-first-century criteria might suggest otherwise."

In discussing our impression that we have to 'be Jesus' to our children she writes, "We never replace Jesus in our children's lives. We don't even do the work of Jesus in our children's lives. We do the work of parents, which is to point our children to Jesus. And then Jesus does his own work- with or without us. It is not Jesus' authority and omniscience that we are called to imitate but his humility, his servanthood, and his sacrifice. In this way alone are we his hands and his feet in our households." She mentions servanthood and sacrifice here but has a whole section about how we can take them both too far.

"We have made far too much of ourselves and far too little of God. We have adopted our culture's belief that we are the primary shapers of our children and that we have control over who they are and what they will become." She gives examples of individuals in the Bible, heroes, who had amazing faith and yet came from upbringings that included prostitution, worship of other gods, murder and "evil in the eyes of the Lord (2 Kings 21:20)". We are not in charge here, folks.

"We need to quit asking, Am I parenting successfully? Instead we need to ask, Am I parenting faithfully?"

"We must rethink our calling. We are not capable of producing perfect followers of Christ, as if we were perfect followers ourselves. Our work cannot purchase anyone else's salvation or sanctification. Parents with unbelieving children, friends with children in jail, and the faith heroes in Hebrews 11 are all powerful reminders of this truth: our children will make their choices, God will be sovereign, and God will advance his kingdom."

Keep in mind, please, that I am pulling these snippets out of full chapters. If you wish for further clarification on where she is speaking from in these quotes, please read the book.

I am planning on hanging on to this book for a long time. I plan on revisiting it over and over again as my children grow and I forget these words. As I am sucked along by our culture and, often, our churches into believing that I, as a parent, have more power than I have. I am not in any way minimizing the need for good parenting, just the idea that we are the only ones who determine who and what our children will be. I am so glad that is not my responsibility. I would fail miserably. And I've made peace with that. I hope you can, too.

It is scary to think we cannot guarantee our children's salvation by a certain parenting style or by providing them with the truth and then trusting that they will believe. Well, friends, that is how God must feel about us. He's laid out the truth. He's given us a choice because He loves us. And, more than anything, I'm sure He is hoping we choose Him over this world.

God can relate to us. He was a parent. He is a parent. And he cares about His children. We can go to Him in prayer with our parenting concerns and He will hear us. Our highest calling is not parenting. Our highest calling is choosing Him.

End of sermon:-).

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  1. Cannot wait to read this. I'm needing to read this. I haven't even read post all the way through, but will be reading both-book & post- completely! Have a great day- Laura

  2. Amen, girl! Well stated. I think I would like to read this 14 year old is starting to drift away from church and "churchy" activities. God has made it very clear to me that I am not to push him or force him or cram Jesus down his throat. I am just to continue to love him, talk to him about God when the opportunity is put before me and to accept him for who he is. I am to answer questions when asked and not to judge. God promises that if we raise our children up knowing Him that when they are old they will return. I'm hanging on to that promise and in the meantime, I will love my sons through their walk with it a close walk or a distant one. Thanks for this was timely. xo

  3. I like this. I'm glad I don't have to do things on my own! It's always good to remind myself of that.


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