I believe that the way we parent our children lays the foundation for who they believe God is.
I train parents. I have no idea how I got into this. I don't think I am great at it. But I do think God is great, and he uses asses like me.
A while back I spoke to a group of pastors from a large church. They asked us to come in and teach our parenting techniques, and research-based interventions to their entire church staff. I was ecstatic, you see usually we train in non-religious groups so I don't get to talk about how I believe these methods are truly the heart of God, I was excited to get to share the parts that I am most passionate about.
Yet I left weeping.
God didn't tell me that training parents meant I would be shifting people's beliefs of who God is. I didn't realize that we parent our children, the way we believe God has parented us.
(Tellingly, when I train a group of non-Christian parents the idea of grace based parenting, and attachment focused problem solving goes over so well. They have not confused the way they parent their children with their views of God, and thus research-based parenting techniques that require second-chances, and shame-free parenting methods are easily grasped.)
It is really hard to not distance your children when they make a terrible choice if you believe that God distances you when you make a terrible choice.
It is difficult to encourage parents to listen to their children, and respect their feelings, even if their children are being disrespectful; when you believe that you cannot go to God when you are angry or disappointed. That God only listens when you have your stuff together.
I believe that God wants us to come messy. He wants us to come angry.
He wants us to work out the mess of this world with Him.
And ultimately we are shaping little hearts and minds toward God, or away.
And we do this most directly in how we act when kids mess up.
I think this is the core issue when we watch young people stray from God as they become adults. Because when they finally get to make decisions for themselves, they run from disconnection, fear-based obligations, and harsh judgements or punishments.
I am nowhere near perfect, I mess up all the time. And I know that doesn't represent my Heavenly Father well to my children. But my hope in all of my failures, is that my children see that I will never remove my love, acceptance, or emotional availability from them despite their choices. I give grace, lot's of it. And the beauty in that, is that I get grace.
If we decided to start parenting with the grace and unconditional love that we preach about from pulpits, I believe we would see revival again, beginning in the youth.
But this would require a bunch of us adults to deal with our skewed views of who we think our Heavenly Father truly is, and why we believe He is that way.
And that is hard stuff.
(Here are a couple of the blogs I read that gave me the courage to finally post this blog I had written a while a back, was afraid to put out there.)