Why is parenting so tough, and what can be done about it?
by Robert Krumrey
In last Sunday’s sermon we looked at some of the patterns of the paradise for which we were made. One of those was the integration of gender, marriage, and sex. This powerful combination can lead to babies that then get raised in a stable home with a mom and dad who love them and love one another. Best of all, the children in this home can learn to place God at the center of their lives as they are led to do so through the instruction and discipline of their parents. In a word, this is a piece of “Paradise”.
But don’t be fooled, this is no easy task. I’m fairly certain that even if Adam and Eve had been able to raise children in a sinless world that it would NOT have been a breeze. Work is in the created order and raising children is work with or without sin. What we will find out this week is that the Paradise we were made for is lost because of sin resulting in a very painful place to do just about anything including raising children. God mentions this to Eve when he is explaining some of the consequences of sin:
This statement is not God being a big meany but explaining that there will be great pain in this world that is a natural consequence of rejecting God as authority which had included his ongoing giving of Paradise. Now human beings have chosen to go it alone and will therefore live in a world where there is suffering and death. Some of that suffering will be experienced in the “pain of childbearing” but not only that, there will be pain in child rearing as well.
If you need to understand this better, just look at the faces of parents of small children. Many of our families at MERCYhouse are in the stage where they are trying to tame the tiny tyrants that are determined to rule the kingdom that is their family. It is exhausting to say the least. Again, this would be hard work even if these little angels were really angels. They would still need to eat and bathe and learn their ABC’s. Now add on that they are sinners and that mom and dad are sinners and you’ve got a recipe for one of the toughest jobs there is - being a parent. Add on to this any physical or mental health issues like sleep disorders or autism and the weight can be unbearable.
But then there is God. Just as he did not leave Adam and Eve alone in their sin, he comes to us as well. I would say that raising kids has been the hardest thing that Melanie and I have ever done. Hard on us personally. Hard on our marriage. Hard on the kids. Family is one of those places where you cannot curate your image. There is no faking it in family. Everybody can see everyone else’s weakness and sin. Even more, those imperfect humans are somehow bringing things out of me that up to this point I’ve been able to keep tapped down. Why is it that I can keep my head all day as a pastor and then lose it at home with my spouse or a kid.
All this pain and suffering being experienced in a family can actually be part of the path back to Paradise. These experiences with spouse and children do bring the worst out of us and if we are not careful we will blame them for making us do these things. Instead we should see what’s happening through the words of Jesus:
According to Jesus, what comes out of our body (words, attitudes, actions) can be traced back to one source and it’s not the bad attitude of our teen or toddler. It’s our own heart. One of the things I didn’t expect to be doing a lot of when I envisioned myself as a parent was asking my children to forgive me. Much to my surprise, I did. Over and over I had to say to my little ones (and later my big ones), “Dad shouldn’t have said that.” or “Please forgive me for losing my temper.” It was (and is) humiliating to say the least. Especially when your 5 year old is looking up into your eyes and saying, “Dad, I forgive you.”.
That said, this humiliation was good. It was good for me and for our kids. What is true about me is that I am a sinner AND that I am forgiven because of what Jesus has done for me on the cross. Because God has forgiven me, I can give and receive forgiveness from others. This is such an important path back to Paradise. So if you are married, married with children, or thinking about what that would be like some day. Know that it is a very painful place but by God’s grace a little piece of Paradise.
Here are a few suggestions for making it more Paradise than Pain:
Remind yourself and your kids that you and your kids are sinners
Remind yourself and your kids that the grace in the gospel is there for you and your kids to be forgiven of sin and transformed from sin’s power.
Confront the sin in your kids, not merely for the purpose of managing behavior, but in order to point them to the need for Jesus’ saving work on the cross and for grace to repent from sin and submit to Jesus as King.
Confess to one another when you have sinned regardless of what the other person did that “made” you do whatever it was. That word or action was already in your heart just waiting to jump out. Your kid just helped you see what was in there.
Pray together as a family for HELP from God for mom, dad, and kids to be changed by God’s power resulting in glory for God and good for your family (aka Paradise!)
Robert is husband to Melanie, dad to Kory (and wife Rebecca), Cooper, and Kayla and lead pastor of MERCYhouse. His roles in the church include teaching and leadership.