What I Have Learned from Parenting

IMG_4050Brian Tate, Edgewood Campus Pastor

“I hope that one day you have a child just like you!” 

Famous words from every parent…everywhere! 

Those words are usually said during negative situations, where the parent is frustrated with the child. Where the child has done something to test the patience of the parent. Where the parent’s beliefs are challenged by the child’s actions or beliefs. Where obedience has been turned upside down to disobedience. And while reflecting on those moments of when I have said those words…I’ve realized that I have learned some things through parenting. But I don’t want to just leave things that I have learned, but how I believe they apply to our spiritual lives. 

Now in no way am I equating my love and actions towards my kids as God’s love and actions towards me. And in no way am I equating myself to God. But is it possible that the way I am learning to love my children a glimpse of the way God loves me? 

  1. There is nothing (and I truly mean nothing) that my children could do that would change my love for them. There are a lot of things and ideas in this world that I do not agree with. In fact, there are a lot of things that my kids do already that I do not agree with (placing the new toilet paper roll on top of the dispenser comes immediately to mind.) There are a lot of things in this world that cause me anger, tremendous anger (human trafficking). I can’t imagine being the Creator and watching my creation be so evil, and still choosing to love them. I want to take that type of love and apply it the best way I know how to the way I love my children. 
  2. It’s never easy cleaning up their mess. It takes my time. It takes my energy. It takes my money. It takes my spouse. It takes so much to clean up after each and every one of them. And as soon as I get things back to normal, there’s another mess from the same child! So I wonder, what does it take to clean up our messes? Our problems? Our sin patterns that we so easily return to after God helps clean them up? It takes God, His time, His energy, His resources, His Son.
  3. Their logic is fallible in most cases. I can only hear “the sky is _______ color” so many times before just walking off and letting think that they are right. Does that make them right? No…but if they are going to continue to believe in their own logic, then they may need to experience the sweet taste of failure. Again, that has me wondering how often God has to do that with us. How often does He allow us to believe in our logic  just because we won’t give in to His?
  4. Growing hurts. Whether we are talking physical or mental, growing hurts. There were many nights that, as a parent, I just can’t do anything for a child that is experiencing growing pains physically. There’s also many nights that I can’t calm an over-emotional child because they just don’t understand how to get an answer to a math problem. All growth causes pain. There are times that our spiritual growth will cause us pain and God will not do anything with that pain, because that pain is what brings growth, and He knows that.
  5. They believe everything they have is their’s. It’s not the family’s. It’s not their sibling’s. It’s definitely not mine! They did absolutely nothing for their things. We, as their parents, furnished their bedroom. We supplied their clothing. We provided them food. We made Christmas happen. We even gave them their birthday, their life, their name. And yet somehow it’s all their’s? What selfish little beings. Oh wait…(I’ll let you finish that sentence). 
  6. My child longs to relate to me, spend time with me, talk to me. My child is disappointed when I don’t spend time with them. As a parent, I want to provide that for them. But then I have to ask: Do I long to relate to God? Do I long to spend time with Him? Do I long to talk to Him? He is more than willing to provide time for a relationship to form…but do I? Do I get caught up in my own world that I forget to long after a relationship with God?
  7. Obedience. It’s what I desire for every child to do willingly. Obedience is the willing submission to do what has been commanded without challenge, excuse, or delay. How I long for the day that every one of my children will do exactly what I ask without challenge, excuse or delay. Just once. Every single one of them. On that day, I will feel so accomplished as a parent. But every child has a problem, their children of self-pleasure. Every time I ask there will most likely be one of those three things happen. But isn’t that exactly what God desires from us? Obedience. “Obedience is the willing submission of my heart to God that causes me to do what God has commanded without challenge, excuse, or delay.” Thanks Paul Tripp. 

As I think about the things I have said, the things I have done, or the things I have learned…the one thing that I ponder upon is: Have I ever said “I hope that one day you have a child just like you!” for a positive reason? Have I given my children hope? Have I given my children encouragement? 

Have I pointed out the good things that they have done and say “I hope that one day you have a child just like you!?”

What’s Your Sign?

Mark Johnston, Connections Pastor

At our recent Baptism and Family Night at Splash Kingdom, i had the chance to visit with Jami Johnson for a few minutes as things were starting to wind down. Jami, as many of you know, is the Stonepoint Member and WPISD teacher whose world was ripped apart almost 4 years ago, with the tragic death of her son, Adam, in an automobile accident.

She was sitting by herself in the shade, while her middle son, Aaron and his friends had fun at the park. I know she must have thought about how much her fun loving little Adam would have enjoyed the night, as well. We chatted for a few minutes, and i asked her how she was doing. I guess she sensed that i wanted honesty instead of the usual answers that people give that question.

Her response was so insightful, that i asked if i could share it.

She said, ‘i’m probably doing as well as most people. The difference is you know my struggle and my pain,’ she nodded toward the 700-plus folks at the water park, ‘and we don’t know what most of those people are dealing with.’ 

 of4bm-car-stick-shift-storyShe went on to say that she’d recently seen a Facebook post where someone told of getting really frustrated, on the road behind a person driving erratically, jerking, braking quickly and having trouble going up inclines. On the path to road rage, he got closer, and noticed a sign on the back of the car saying “I’m learning to drive a stick shift.” His initial irritation with the other driver, suddenly turned to empathy as he recalled his own experiences grinding gears, stalling out going uphill, missing second, all of the struggles that most of us go through learning to drive a standard.

Because he knew the situation, he was able to have sympathy for the other driver, realize that the extra two minutes his trip was going to take was not really a big deal, and maybe even say a quick prayer for the obviously frustrated, embarrassed girl and her teacher.

It’s like when i see those cars with “Student Driver” emblazoned on them. I want to have some mercy, but based on the information, i also tend to stay the heck out of the way, just in case.

The problem is that most of us don’t have a sign.

We don’t walk around with something around our necks saying “Recently Divorced,” “Dealing With the Death of a Loved One,” “I Have an Unfaithful Spouse,” or the myriad other problems that can affect us, and affect the way we treat other people. Some of the time those hurts are invisible—internalized, or only shared with a few close friends. For other folks, they’re bubbling so close to the surface that they erupt at the slightest provocation, leaving the rest of us to wonder what’s wrong, or worse, grumble about a presumed lack of courtesy, irritability or sometimes, downright ugliness.

So what if we treated everyone like they had a sign? 

Would you get as frustrated in the grocery store if the older person in line in front of you that waited until all the groceries were scanned to pull out her checkbook had a sign on her back that said “I’m 80 and Have No One to Take Care of Me?” What if the driver going 50 in a 70 had a sign that said “I Lost My Job, and Can’t Afford to Get My Car Fixed, and Am on My Way to An Interview”—how would you feel about being stuck behind them then?

One time i saw a guy throw a large soft drink back through the drive thru window at a Wendy’s, because they’d gotten his drink order wrong. Maybe he was just a jerk, but looking back, i wonder what his sign would have read.

You’ve heard it said ‘hurting people hurt people.’ Everyone is dealing with a hurt, of some kind or another. Some of them we know, but most, we don’t.

Your pain may not have made the ten o’clock news like Jami’s did. In fact, it may be private and you may not feel that you have anyone to share it with. At Stonepoint, we try to set people up with as many opportunities for honesty as we can. 

One of those is our Journey Group ministry. Journey Groups are small, home-based Bible studies where people share what’s going on in their lives—the good and the bad. It’s a smaller setting than our Sunday morning gatherings, and one where vulnerability and transparency are encouraged. Journey Groups are places where healing, sharing and dealing with hurts are encouraged.

We also offer re:generation, a twelve step, faith-based recovery/discipleship ministry that has helped countless people deal with hurts and unhealthy habits in their lives. Re:gen gives people a chance to talk about things in their past that has affected their lives in ways they haven’t dealt with well, and gives them a means to a better life, free from that baggage. Re:gen meets at 7pm on Monday nights at our Wills Point Campus.

Some wounds never fully heal. Jami and many other people have had their worlds so altered by outside forces that hanging moment by moment on God’s promise to never leave or forsake is the only way they get through each day. (Deuteronomy 31:6) We can never fully know the extent of their pain and what goes through their minds, but God does, and reliance on Him is what we read on their signs.

Maybe you’re doing okay with your own struggles, whatever they are. Hopefully you’ve already given them to God, shared them with godly friends and dealing with them in a Biblical manner.

No matter what your story is—let’s try to treat everyone we come in contact with like they have a sign that we can’t see. We’re all dealing with something, and Stonepoint needs to be a church of people who treat everyone with that sort of empathy, whether they ever set foot inside our doors or not.

So if we’re in the car, at the grocery store, or in the halls at church asking ‘how are you?’— let’s look for the signs.