Parents Who Try Too Hard Risk Obscuring God
“Beloved, we are God’s children now.” – 1 John 3:2
Being parented is difficult. We come into the world longing for perfect love, then we get broken parents. Some days we crush them with our colossal expectations.
Parenting is stressful. We want to make our children’s lives beautiful. We assume a set of impossible obligations.
Could your father make you healthy? Could your mother make you happy? Karl Barth says no. “The only thing a parent can give a child is an opportunity.” You aren’t made in your father’s image. Or your mother’s. You’re made in God’s image.
Barth says parents have “a Godward aspect.” They are above us. They loom and shape. But before you had a human parent, you had a perfect one. God is your original Parent. At their best our parents provide dim reflections of Her love.
Trouble arises when we confuse the two. Parents who try too hard risk obscuring God. A parent’s most important job is to point their children toward God’s own parenting.
To do this you have to accept that your children belong to God, not you. You have to release them from your grip. It’s hard. Surrendering your children to God’s care requires an incredible amount of faith.
When you find it, you’ll find something else: you have the Father you’ve spent a lifetime longing for. The Mother you and your mother were both born crying for. Parents are also children of God.
Barth again: “Parents are more like our elder siblings than our Father in heaven.” If you’re a child, put your colossal expectations on God, not your parents. She can carry them. If you’re a parent, put your impossible obligations down. You aren’t God.
Mother, father, son, daughter; those are temporary titles. In the last analysis, we’re God’s children. No more, no less.
Unburden us, dear Lord. Then let us run through the sprinkler together, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, your children every one of us, siblings gathered in your love.
Matt Fitzgerald is the Senior Pastor of St. Pauls United Church of Christ in Chicago. He is the host of “Preachers on Preaching,” a weekly podcast sponsored by The Christian Century.