Parenting is a vocation that makes us into saints
We’ve been listening to the Messy Families podcast and one of the recurring themes is this message for parents: stop worrying about getting your kids to heaven – parenting is about helping you get to heaven!
Mike and Alicia Hernon go on to explain… the reason motherhood or fatherhood is a vocation, is not to make our kids into saints. It’s about making parents into saints (ie getting us to heaven).
The primary point of motherhood and fatherhood is to refine the parents, and secondarily to refine the children. It’s about what God is trying to teach us through the challenge of this child’s behaviour or character flaws.
God is a father. He wants us to learn to love like him, and raising children teaches that. God works on us and helps us grow in holiness through the difficulties of raising children.
We’ve always seen ourselves as responsible for ensuring that our kids understand and practice their faith, and we’re not saying we don’t have some responsibility here. But our children have free will, just like we do, and true faith can’t be compelled. It has to be freely chosen.
Approaching our parenting like a mission that passes or fails according to whether our children practice their faith is the wrong measure. Yes, we should care, and yes we should do everything we can to help that outcome, but it’s more important that we practice our faith with diligence and joy. That is what God desires of us and that’s what the mission is really about.
If raising children helps us to commit more deeply to that agenda, pursue Christ with greater devotion, pray with more heartfelt desperation for God to be present in our lives, the parenthood project is working. We are being forged in holiness over and over with every challenging incident.
From Problem to Opportunity
This idea is a complete reframing of parenting challenges. Rather than seeing our misbehaving toddler or rebellious teen as a problem to be fixed, we see them as God’s invitation to growth.
When our kids push us to the limits of our patience, when they demand more than we are prepared to give in time and attention, when they challenge our rules or rebel against our values – they are blessing us with a love lesson.
Our daughter and son-in-law have two young daughters. The eldest at two years and two months has some health issues and screams several times daily like the Nazgul (from the Lord of the Rings) when frustrated. Their sleep is shredded and her shrill vocalisations put their nerves on edge. Yet still they maintain patient attentiveness and firm boundaries with her. They are truly being forged in virtue and holiness.
And for us also. After raising five children, we thought we had finished growing in this arena, but our granddaughters are teaching us more.
School of Love
Reframing difficult relationships from a ‘problem’ to a ‘growth opportunity’ helps us resist the temptation to avoid them or become overwhelmed by them. Whether its parenting, or marriage, the same principle applies.
Like parenting, marriage is a school of love and a pathway to holiness. Christ, our bridegroom, wants us to learn to love like him, and for those with a vocation to marriage, that is where the learning principally happens.
Every challenging situation in our marriages, is an invitation to growth. It’s easy to get self-righteous when our spouse is difficult and fails to meet our expectations. We can see it as our mission to ‘fix’ our spouse.
But God does not call us to reform our spouse; he calls us to let Christ fix us. To grow in our dependence and intimacy with Jesus who is our redeemer and healer. And at the end of the day, that is what holiness and getting to heaven is all about – being in relationship our Saviour and Lord.
Francine & Byron are the founders of SmartLoving. For online courses and free resources, visit www.smartloving.org