1. Parenting taught me why God wants me to obey him.
Our children didn’t understand why we made them eat green vegetables, do their schoolwork, and go to bed at a decent hour. They couldn’t fathom how baths were good and eating dirt was bad. It was a mystery to them why we were so passionate that they avoid alcohol, date only believers, and hang out with kids who loved Jesus.
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I loved playing with my children. I loved teaching them. I loved sharing adventures, reading to them, and taking trips. I loved feeding them, clothing them, and giving them special gifts.
I did not enjoy making them obey. I didn’t enjoy holding them accountable to be honest, diligent, and respectful. I didn’t enjoy making them do chores, save their money, and complete their school assignments. I didn’t enjoy being “the bad guy” who punished them for disobeying and “forced” them to go to church.
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But I did it anyway, because I knew the scriptural guidelines we were laying down would help protect them from the danger and devastation of sin and help them become happy, healthy, productive, godly adults. I wanted my children to experience everything good and avoid everything bad.
Many times, like my children, I struggle with obedience. I become willful and rebellious. I march off in pursuit of what I know is best for me. I’m convinced I know best what will make me happy. Obey God? Surely he doesn’t know better than I what makes me happy.
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And I’ve lived long enough to suffer the consequences of my disobedience.
“If you love me,” he calls, “keep my commandments. Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. And all these things (everything you need to be fulfilled) will be added to you.”
My children helped me understand why God wanted me to obey him.
2. Parenting taught me how much God loves me.
Because I didn’t enjoy babysitting, I worried I might not be a good mother. I was unprepared for the emotions that overwhelmed me following my daughter’s birth. Almost instantly, something happened that made me 100 percent mother. Fiercely protective. Sacrificially giving. Unconditionally loving. When I held my baby in my arms for the first time, I knew, should the need arise, that I would die for her.
Yet I am frail, and flawed, and selfish. I’m impatient, fickle, and imperfect. I’m plagued by a sin nature, and I make mistakes. Because of my human limitations, I know the love I feel for my children is a mere whisper of the love God has for me. Loving my children gives me a glimpse of God’s heart toward his children.
3. Parenting taught me how much my sin hurts God.
I have two amazingly wonderful daughters, but they are imperfect. Their actions have, at times, broken my heart. How can they do this after all I’ve done for them, all I’ve sacrificed for them, all I’ve tried to teach them? I’ve wondered sadly. Don’t they know how much they’ve hurt me?
Yet I hurt my perfect, holy, loving, sacrificial Father without batting an eye. Selfishness? That’s just the way I am. Dishonesty? It was only a small lie. Neglect? I had important things to do. It seldom enters my mind how much my sinful actions hurt God. Break his heart. Drive the cross nails a little deeper. Press the thorn crown a little harder. Because I know he will forgive me, I treat my sin casually and play the mercy card when my conscience pricks.
Feeling the pain of my children’s sin awakens me to the piercing power of my own. Father, forgive me.
4. Parenting taught me how much Jesus’ sacrificial death cost God.
When I think about how much I love my children and how protective I feel toward them, I stand in awe of God. To think that he would sacrifice his perfect Son on a torturous cross for sinful humanity is too much even to imagine.
“Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man,” the apostle Paul writes, “though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:7-8).
Picture the worst sinners you can imagine—Hitler, Stalin, Ted Bundy. Then picture the face of your innocent child. Now imagine exchanging your child’s life for theirs.
That’s how much God loves us.
5. Parenting taught me why I must trust him even when I don’t understand.
My husband and I made many decisions that made no sense to our children. We allowed nurses to stick needles in their arms, teachers to force them to study Chemistry, and swim coaches to push them until they threw up. We made them work for their money, memorize Bible verses, and humble themselves to ask forgiveness. Our actions seemed puzzling and cruel.
My actions toward God demonstrate some of the same suspicion my children felt. How can financial difficulty be good? I wonder. How can a closed door be the answer to my prayer? How can this tragedy be part of God’s “good and perfect will” for me?
Now that our daughters are young adults, they understand why we parented them as we did—because we were looking beyond their immediate comfort to their long term good. I know God is doing the same for me.
“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful,” the unknown writer of Hebrews tells me. “Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
God reveals himself in many ways—through his Word, creation, and other believers. One of the greatest ways he’s helped me understand him better has been through my children. They have helped me learn why God wants me to obey and how much my sin hurts him. Through them God’s taught me how much his son’s death cost him and why I should trust him even when I don’t understand. Most of all, he’s shown me that he loves me beyond comprehension, just like a Father loves his child. And that’s something we can all understand.
Lori Hatcher is the author of the newly-released Hungry for God … Starving for Time, Five-Minute Devotions for Busy Women. Like a spiritual power bar, Hungry for God is the nutrition women need to get through the day.
Lori knows what it’s like to be busy. And what it’s like to struggle to make time for God. Her passion is helping women connect with God in the craziness of everyday life. A Yankee transplant living in Columbia, South Carolina, Lori uses her speaking and writing ministry to equip and empower women. She’d love to connect with you on her blog, on Facebook, and Twitter @lorihatcher2.
Publication date: January 9, 2015