When I was in my last trimester of pregnancy, I remember lying on my bed and sobbing hormone-fuelled, lack-of-sleep induced tears and exclaiming to my husband, Andrew:
“I am not prepared for this.”
“How can I be a mom?”
“Am I going to be any good at this?”
I felt ill-equipped for what lay ahead. There were so many decisions to make, so many responsibilities I would have, and I felt completely unqualified. Questions like those have echoed in my mind many times since then, spurred on by smaller things in the early weeks of parenting, like bathing a newborn and changing a pamper correctly, and by bigger things later on, like making decisions about work, childcare, sleep and feeding baby Levi:
“Am I doing this right?”
“Am I going to mess this up?”
“Am I even the least bit qualified?”
As I shared some of these questions with close friends and family members, I learned quickly that I wasn’t the only one asking these questions. In fact, it seemed that in every stage of raising children – from tinies to teenagers – parents were asking if they were qualified. They questioned if they were doing a good enough job, and if they were going to somehow “fool up” their kids.
In my role as a children’s pastor, I often heard these thoughts echoed as well, although in different ways.Take-home challenges and discussion questions were often left blank because parents didn’t feel like they had enough knowledge, authority or spiritual maturity to talk to their kids about issues of faith. Hot-button issues like sexuality, social media and bullying were left to pastors, teachers and other professionals to discuss, as parents felt unqualified and overwhelmed.
I have quickly learned that most parents, including me, feel under-qualified and unprepared when it comes to taking the lead on issues in their children’s lives. Whether pampers, peer pressure or prayer, those thoughts of “I’m just not good enough” seem to permeate the thought lives of parents in every stage of life.
As I’ve thought over this issue and the way it surfaces -both in my own life and in the lives of others – I’ve concluded that many of these doubts and feelings of insecurity come because parents don’t understand one vital thing: calling.
Our conversations about calling often centre around work and vocation – especially when it comes to more spiritual work, like pastoring. We know that people are called to pastor, to go to foreign lands to share the Gospel, to teach and to follow God in radical ways. Many of us don’t even have any trouble accepting that God calls certain people to be teachers, doctors, nurses and other noble professions.
But when it comes to parenting, most of us struggle to see it as a calling. It isn’t all that glamorous or exciting. Not many people see the results of our day-in and day-out labour. So many people do it, how could it possibly be a special calling?
This is where an accurate understanding of Scripture, and the narrative of calling in the first place, is important. While we have conjured up calling to be some spectacular notion for a few people, that idea is not found in the Bible. What is found in the Bible is that God calls ALL people to ALL sorts of tasks.
Adam and Eve were called to rule the earth and have children.
Deborah was called to be a judge.
Gideon was called as a mighty warrior.
Esther was called to be a queen.
Paul was called to be a preacher.
Priscilla & Aquila were called to teach God’s Word.
And yes, Mary, Elizabeth, Hannah, and others were called to be mothers.
God calls people to parenting as much as He does to preaching. He calls us to the work of raising children as much as He does to rescuing the sick and dying. While parenting is certainly not the only calling in the lives of mothers and fathers, it is a calling – and an important one.
Part of this calling to parenting is being a mentor, leader and authority in our children’s lives. Guidance on important issues, spiritual leadership & teaching children about God is not reserved for an elite few, but intended for every parent, in every place, in every stage of life.This isn’t just a made-up concept that I conjured up to make parents feel empowered – God has been commanding parents to teach their children His ways since He gave the law to Israel. Deuteronomy 6 puts it this way:
… commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
In early Israel, children were not intended to be taught about God by priests and leaders alone. They weren’t intended to find their place in the mission of God through classes at the temple – but through the influence of their parents. Parents were charged to permeate their daily living with the Word of God; charged to talk about His ways in every stage of life, at every opportunity.
If the calling to parents to teach their children the ways of God isn’t enough, there’s also the calling on all believers to preach the Gospel and make disciples. While we often think of this calling as for “out there” in the world, shouldn’t it also apply to what goes on in our own homes, with our own children?
This calling to parents, along with the calling of all believers to be ministers of the Gospel reinforces one thing for me – parents are intended to be spiritual influencers in the lives of their children. They are called to teach their children about the ways of God, offer guidance on important life issues, and be an example of what it means to live a life that honours Christ.
Understanding this calling literally changes everything.
Think about it for a minute.
God has called YOU to parent your child.
Beyond that, He has given you the responsibility to teach them – to disciple, influence and lead.
He hasn’t called a pastor, teacher or other authority figure to do this work – even though what they do matters.
He has called you.
While I knew this was true in my head, it wasn’t until I held Levi in my arms that it began to sink into my heart. What I’d heard said so many times, even what I had preached, didn’t truly hit home until I looked down at my precious little one. I wasn’t just responsible to change his pampers, but to preach the Gospel to him. Beyond just teaching him to walk, talk and how to hold a spoon, I’m also responsible to teach him the ways of God – and how to live out what those values in today’s world.
I am called.
You are called.
The hard work of parenting matters, and you are able to do it, friend.
Let these words of Scripture permeate your heart:
“The one who has called you is faithful and He will do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:24)
He has called You.
He is faithful.
And He will strengthen, guide and journey alongside you as you parent those who have been entrusted to your care.
How has an understanding of calling affected your parenting? What aspects of it do you struggle with? Leave a comment and let’s keep the discussion going.
Check back on the blog this Thursday as we look at some practical resources that can help you live out this calling of parenthood.
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