Standing in front of my daughter’s college freshman dorm, my chest tightened within me as my arms tightened around her. I knew for 18 years that this moment was coming, and I still wasn’t prepared. We’ve launched two of our four daughters into the world now, and I can’t imagine the next two will be any easier.
Parenting is one of life’s best gifts and hardest mercies. It’s a joy and delight but can also be a great weight and worry. We get just one chance with each child.
My children have only known life as missionary kids and pastor’s kids, but my husband and I know nothing of being raised in ministry homes. So, from our first days of marriage we’ve been collecting mentors who’ve gone before us, hoping to glean wisdom to steward the kids God has entrusted to us. I’ve never wanted to get something so right in my life.
And while we’re still far from the finish line (is there one?), and daily failing in various ways, I’m grateful for the example of others who opened up their homes and their families to help us along the way. Here are five truths they taught us that I keep clinging to as a mom who is still running the race.
We must put our hope in our risen Lord, not in our perfect parenting. Thank God he’s perfect because we aren’t. The pressure is off because God is sovereign and gracious. You and I can sleep at night—after we’ve gotten some things right and some things wrong—because God’s throne is in the heavens and he rules over all (Ps. 103:19). We can trust our good Father, “who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all” (Rom. 8:32), to love and pursue our children by his perfect means and in his perfect time.
Our kids exist for God’s glory, not for ours. Every parent is tempted to treat their children as accessories—props or extensions of our own personalities, values, and goals. But our kids’ lives aren’t about us. They’re about our God who formed us and made us for his glory, to be called by his name (Isa. 43:7).If we raise our kids with our fingers clenched around outward appearances and the approval of man, our kids will know it and resent it. They'll perceive we’re more concerned about our own image than God’s in them. Click To Tweet
If we raise our kids with our fingers clenched around outward appearances and the approval of man, our kids will know it and resent it. They’ll perceive we’re more concerned about our own image than God’s in them. Let’s fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, and ask him to change and grow us alongside our kids. Let’s trust Jesus, release our kids to him, and ask him to help us forget ourselves in the process.
Our children have only one mom and dad, but the church has many overseers and leaders. Every church-planting couple I know wonders if they’re doing enough to serve the body God has given to them. But here’s what’s true: there will always be more planters, overseers, ministry coordinators, and pastors for your flock. There will never be another mom and dad for your kids. And while I don’t think it’s healthy or biblical to shape a family that is child-centered, we should ask ourselves, our kids, and our dear friends if we’re sacrificing our family for our ministry. It’s good to sacrifice as a family for the mission, but it’s not okay to sacrifice our families for the mission. Let’s not give away roles that can only be filled by us for roles that can—and one day will—be filled by others.
Let the church be family. The brothers and sisters in our pews are the hundredfold promised to us by Jesus when we leave our physical families to build our spiritual ones (Mark 10:29–30). Embrace and love them, and be embraced and loved by them, along with your kids.There will always be more planters, overseers, ministry coordinators, and pastors for your flock. There will never be another mom and dad for your kids. Click To Tweet
It can be tempting to over-shelter or withdraw, or to let a moody teenager forsake their youth group for their social circle. But this is our eternal family, given by God to grow, protect, celebrate, and nourish us and our kids. Through prayer and the faithful leading of the Spirit within us, let us let God use his people to be a warm home and a trustworthy shelter for our kids.
There are no formulas, just grace. We’re a people hungry for formulas to master and equations to fulfill. Good parenting in, good children out. And I think we can all agree that certain parenting practices and boundaries generally do lead to better outcomes than others. But we must hold these proverbial truths in the balance with the reality that God often works outside of those bounds. Our kids’ stories are not over yet—and neither are ours. As we wrestle and worry, we must hold tightly to the truth that God’s grace doesn’t follow a tidy equation. As tempting as it is to believe that if we get everything just right, so will our kids, that makes us the center instead of God. We don’t always know what he’s up to, but we know he’s good. Our kids’ stories are not over yet—and neither are ours. As we wrestle and worry, we must hold tightly to the truth that God’s grace doesn’t follow a tidy equation. Click To Tweet
So much more could be written about parenting as church planters. A thousand more articles would not suffice. And even if we read them all, we would never feel ready for the day we give our children a final hug goodbye and send them on their way. We will forever feel like we could have done more, should have done better.
Our Father who gave up his own Son to save us, and the Son who conquered death and the grave that we might too, and the Holy Spirit who now lives in you and me, “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Eph. 3:20). Let’s hold on to him, friends. He’s not through with us—or our kids—yet.