Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Parent Trap

Although the movie, “The Parent Trap,” is full of humor, antics, and a happy ending there are many parents who truly feel trapped by the daunting task of raising children in a society that is spiraling out of control.  There have been days when I have thought to myself, I certainly wouldn’t have signed up for parenthood if I had known it would be this difficult!  Then I remember that God signed me up for this great adventure and he knew just how much grace, faith, and humor it would take to maintain my sanity while I searched for my own happy ending.

As the parent of teenagers, my faith has been stretched like never before.  Trying to teach our children truth, fleshing it out before them, and praying that they would catch on and follow God’s principles for living have bordered on futility some days. We have done all we know to do and come up short more times that we care to admit.  Although not perfect parents, we have been the best parents we could be.  Because of that, even though some have criticized our parenting methods we rest in the assurance that “therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

During the past few years as our children have become adolescents determined to assert their independence, many friends have encouraged us by saying, “This won’t last forever.  It will get better.”  Despite our ups and downs, it appears they were right and the worst is behind us for now.  At times I have to remind myself that I, too, went through a lengthy season of rebellion and it has taken me years to reach a place of intimate fellowship with Jesus.  As much as I want to accelerate my children’s spiritual growth and help them avoid the pain of making costly mistakes, I realize that some of the greatest lessons they will ever learn will result from the poor choices they make on their journey back to God.  

As difficult as parenting may be, there are things we can do to avoid becoming trapped by the weight of our responsibilities.  First of all, we must give the highest priority to our relationship with the Lord and stand firmly on the promises of his Word during this challenging season of life.  God has promised never to leave us or forsake us (Joshua 1:5), to impart wisdom when we pray for it in faith (James 1:5), and to meet all our needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).  He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8), despite the mood swings and personality changes that come with the influx of hormones as our children become young men and women.  As parents, we lean heavily on God’s promise in Proverbs 22:6, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”  Sometimes our children are old when they return to God’s ways, but I firmly believe that no matter how far they stray, if they have been taught the truths of scripture and seen us model a Spirit-filled life before them, they will eventually enjoy an intimate relationship with God.

We also need to recognize that our marriages must be nurtured no matter what parenting crisis we may face.  Our children’s needs change as they grow older and they require a whole lot more of our attention and supervision, not less, as they move through their pre-teen and teen years.  Many kids begin rebelling against parental authority and the divine direction of God’s Word.  When the arrest of a teenager or an unplanned pregnancy occurs and creates a “new normal” for the entire family, we need to make sure we don’t neglect the needs of our spouses or other children who may be living at home. Satan is a master at destroying marriages and will often use our children’s rebellion to accomplish his evil intent.  When it seems the whole family is coming apart at the seams, we need to love and cling tightly to our spouses as never before.  “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work:  If one falls down, his friend (or spouse) can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10).  If you know a single parent who is struggling, reach out to him or her.  No one should have to navigate the choppy waters alone!

We must realize that as twenty-first century parents we are engaged in spiritual warfare against the enemy who seeks to kill and destroy our children and our marriages.   Our only hope for winning the battle and walking in joy is to wage war on our knees, stand firmly on God’s promises, and continue to nurture the loving relationships that provide joy and strength for the journey.  We must seek the guidance and wisdom of the Holy Spirit and realize that Jesus loves our children—and us—perfectly, despite our flaws and mistakes.  Let us all pray to be more like our heavenly Father and ask him to fill us with his love for our children and his all-sufficient grace to run the race and finish it well.

Copyright © 2012 by Dee Dee Wike.  All rights reserved.

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