Your view of God will determine what type of parent you are.
For those who view God as an angry tyrant and judge visiting wrathful vengeance on all who cross him, you will mirror that image. Your parenting will be demanding and unmerciful. You will be self-righteous because you believe yourself to measure up to God’s laws, for how else could one be a Christian?
On the days that you’re a “good parent” (i.e. you make a delicious breakfast with fruit, organic cage-free eggs, whole grain sprouted wheat toast, send them joyfully to school, do their laundry with a song in your heart, help them with homework without once raising your voice, and send them to bed after a full 30 minutes of family worship), you’ll find confidence and wonder why your kids are not doing what they should. Your impatience for their sin will smother them. You’ll think about how you do what you are supposed to do, so why can’t they? You’ll expect God to save your kids. You’ll operate under a covenant of works, “If I tell them about God’s law, they’ll obey and become Christians.”
When this doesn’t happen, when they rebel or don’t love God, your anger turns from your children to God. You will think him to be a liar and unfair. Your thoughts will be about all you gave up to parent them according to what was right, and how you’ve been gripped because they’re not doing what they’re supposed to do. Your legalism and moralism will suffocate them.
On the days that you don’t measure up and you’re a “bad parent” (i.e. you yell at them to eat cereal, you make them walk home because you don’t want to drive the 5 minutes to get them, and when you try to do homework, you end up yelling at them and sending them to bed early), you’ll be depressed and think God made a mistake in even giving you kids. You’ll feel guilty for your sin and you’ll make your kids feel guilty for theirs. Depression and pessimism will characterize your relationship with your kids.
You’ll be unable to see God’s work in your own life or in the lives of your children. Your vision will be clouded over with all the failures your family has produced. Joy will be lacking from your home, because you’ll think God is standing up in the sky tapping his toe waiting for you to do better. You’ll try to compensate for your badness by attempting to win your children’s and God’s affection in other ways, but this will never work because you’ll feel that God and your children are insatiable. You’ll waffle between trying harder to be a good parent and giving up because you never can be. Your children will have to test the water every day to see where you’re at, and this will cause unsettledness in your home.
If you believe God to be merciful, patient and steadfast you’ll enjoy a peace.
You’ll be aware that you and your children are sinners, but that Jesus Christ is a friend of sinners. You’ll be able to freely confess your sin to your children, you won’t feel like you’re letting them win because you had to admit to wrong. You’ll see, with hope, how God is strong enough to even use your sin to make his grace look glorious. You’ll know that his unconditional love is for you on the days that you’re a bad parent and the days that you’re a good parent. You’ll not be surprised at your children’s sin because you’ll believe the truth that Paul proclaimed, “Christ came for sinners, which I am the worst.”
If the Apostle Paul sinned, you can count on your children sinning too. If you believe God’s covenantal love, your children’s performance won’t determine your mood. You’ll find refuge in the freeing truth that God’s love will not change depending on how your kids obey or how you obey. You’ll be able to see the evidences of God’s grace in their life, even if they are small. Your speech will be encouraging. If you believe that it’s only God that saves, not your parenting, you’ll rely on the Holy Spirit to move. You won’t depend on your own works. This dependence will drive you to prayer. It will also give you the ability to relax because your child’s salvation is not up to you.
If you believe in the fullness of his love, there will be no child that’s in a hopeless situation. If he saved you, he can save anyone. You’ll know that on the days you fail to believe his goodness and love, there’s new mercy and grace. You’ll know all of your failures as a parent have been poured out on the Son so you don’t have to justify or blame shift any longer. You’ll have a humble confidence on your bad days, aware of your great need and your great remedy. You’ll also have humble confidence on your good days, because if God can work in your heart, he can work in anybody’s heart.
Here’s the really good news, even if our view of God is not right, he still is powerful enough to save our children. His mercy is new for us and for our kids every single day. We can rest today, admit failure today, and rejoice in the goodness of our Heavenly Father today. As we rest in his one way love for us we will be able to love our little ones in a new way. When we are free from trying to earn his love we will in turn be able to love our kids more. Freedom begets freedom. Trying to earn love begets trying to make others earn your love. Share the freedom Christ has earned for you. It is for freedom that he set you free. So live joyfully in his love for sinners and then freely love your kids.