If I asked you to give a definition of a perfect parent, what would you say? You might give such characteristics as:
- Makes sure your family has dinner together at least 5 times a week.
- Has children in church every week.
- Provides children with necessities, such as clothing and food.
- Loves Jesus more than anything.
- Gives children opportunities and experiences through extracurricular activities.
- Protects children from dangers.
- Defining (or eliminating) specific roles in the family.
- Helps children with schoolwork.
There has to be a better definition than these details. Maybe we can only look ahead and see the results, and then work backwards.
Before my wife and I had children, and when our kids were young, we were blessed to be around families that had older children. We saw behaviors and attitudes in those children that we wanted our own kids to have, so we sought wisdom from those parents. Though we never phrased it this way, we were often looking for a formula for parenting success.
But is there an example of a perfect parent? Of course! Without sounding cliche, can we agree that our heavenly Father is a perfect parent? (OK, that does sound cliche. Sorry.)
Our God is a perfect protector (John 10:27-29), provider (Psalm 23:1), teacher (John 14:26), and more. But let's see how that turned out for Israel, in Hosea 11:1-7:
1 When Israel was a youth I loved him,
And out of Egypt I called My son.
2 The more they called them,
The more they went from them;
They kept sacrificing to the Baals
And burning incense to idols.
3 Yet it is I who taught Ephraim to walk,
I took them in My arms;
But they did not know that I healed them.
4 I led them with cords of a man, with bonds of love,
And I became to them as one who lifts the yoke from their jaws;
And I bent down and fed them.
5 They will not return to the land of Egypt;
But Assyria - he will be their king
Because they refused to return to Me.
6 The sword will whirl against their cities,
And will demolish their gate bars
And consume them because of their counsels.
7 So My people are bent on turning from Me.
Though they call them to the One on high,
None at all exalts Him.
How did Israel respond to God's perfect parenting? They completely rejected Him! For all that the Lord did to show them love, they refused to trust in and exalt Him. Isaiah 1:4 says that Israel abandoned and despised the LORD.
If God, who is a perfect Father, has rebellious children, then I don't need to expect to get perfect results in how I parent.
Even if your children despise and turn away from you (and most of us will not experience this, but many of us will), know that you are not alone. Your heavenly Father experienced the same.
So, however we define "perfect parenting," let's make sure that we don't define it solely by results. Our children are broken sinners, in need of grace. And so are we as parents.
I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments: How would you define a perfect parent?
- Biblical Parent vs Gospel Parenting
- Passing on Your Faith
- Your Kids Don't Expect You to Be Perfect
- Recommended: Shepherding a Child's Heart
- Gospel-Centered Children
**image courtesy of Library of Congress via flickr