Parents. Alright, what are we doing? No, really! I ask myself that every day because I honestly don’t know most of the time.
As a father I fall somewhere between superhero and villain. I’m not just talking about the times my oldest boy pretends to be a Jedi and comes after me with a light saber. Yes, that happens and usually I’m the villain, but I’m talking on a grander scale. Specifically, my capacity to love these small people God graciously placed in our lives.
Most parents–like myself–tend to measure their parental capacity based on their kids’ reactions.If they seem happy enough or like us enough then all is well, we must be great parents and, therefore, awesome people. Maybe that’s true. Maybe, but I wonder if that type of confidence is misplaced. Don’t get me wrong. It’s awesome when our kids like us. They should, but making that our life’s goal isn’t quite what parenting ought to be.
Seriously, on a more fundamental level I think we should be more concerned with who our kids ‘believe in.’ On some level, yes, I hope they ‘believe’ in me and have some measure of confidence that I’ll come through for them. Let’s face it though, I’ll ultimately fail them. Like I said, I’m a mix of competent and incompetent when it comes to fathering (with a strong bent toward oblivious). In fact, most of us fall in that category.
So, I think the best thing I can do for my children is to root my identity, not in what they think of me, but in what God thinks of me.
We’re raising adults, right? Adults who understand who they are? I think, yes! But sadly, to many adults these days (including myself at times) grasp for identity in all the wrong places: overworking, overspending, sex, addictions and on and on and on (I think we can fill in the blanks).
As parents we should show them where true identity lies—in God. Genesis 1:26 describes the root of who we are as people—God’s image bearers. The creator of the cosmos breathed his very image into our souls. No, we don’t look like him, but we do share characteristics of the divine when we engage in community, help the needy, care for creation and, yes, make our kids breakfast. That is the identity of every person.
More to the point, if we’ve recognized our sinfulness, placed our faith in Christ, and now follow him in obedience, then we have an even more profound identity. Not only are we image bearers of God but we are now his children (John 1:12).
So, if our significance and meaning isn’t wrapped up in what our kids think of us, but in our identity as God’s kids, then lets teach our kids how to embrace that identity.
To do this we have to embrace that identity for ourselves. In other words, instead of striving to get your kids to like you, try showing them your confidence as a beloved child of God. Embrace your identity as his child and let your kids see you do it. Show them mercy and grace. Come down to their level and play with them! Let them see you serve your spouse, be kind to your in-laws and share with your neighbors (even if your neighbors keep borrowing your stuff without returning it). Embody who your heavenly father is: loving, sacrificial, forgiving and humble (John 1:14; Phil. 2:1-11).
I admit, I’m a bit of a novice when it comes to parenting. But one thing I do know is that I’m way to flawed for my children to pin their identity on me. It has to be placed in God because he is their truest father!