Desperation circled around me during the early years of parenting. My child’s rage was quick, unpredictable, and often uncontrollable. At three years old, her tiny, little heart contained so much anger it wasn’t a matter of if she would explode during the day but when.
Doubting our own parenting ability goes to an all-time high when our children disobey or have character issues beyond our control.
Especially when other children with different parents seem to simply fall in line. We question ourselves and our own decisions. We wonder if someone else could do it better. We read all the books, try all the things, only to discover the sin issue in our children’s heart is bigger than the current parenting strategy we are implementing.
When I discovered I was pregnant with my third kid in three years, realized my child was holding us all hostage with her anger, and my pride finally broke, I arranged to have coffee with an older woman in the church. I wasn’t positive she could help. Maybe she had even forgotten what it was like to have small children. But I was desperate to help my child learn to submit to authority without damaging our property. And to be honest, I really just wanted to be able to go to Target without a meltdown in the middle of the store!
Initially, my friend’s advice disappointed me a bit.
She didn’t recommend a parenting strategy or a new book to read. In fact, there was no tangible step for me to take at all.
Instead, she looked me in the eyes and stated, “You need to pray for early salvation. Your daughter needs the Holy Spirit to help her. And you need the Holy Spirit on your side. ”
This sweet lady wasn’t talking about a forced prayer for salvation and then my daughter would be “fixed”. No, she was reminding me to beg God to open the eyes of my daughter to understand the Gospel. Then let God draw her close to Him in His timing.
Her statement was meant to remind me that only God can make a new creation out of his child. Only God transforms and creates.
We all know these words, but when it comes to parenting, do we really live like we believe them? Do we really believe God is powerful enough to make changes in our children without finding the perfect five-step parenting strategy? Can God save our children in a way where they can truly understand the Gospel at such a young age?
Parenting gives us the perfect opportunity to put our belief systems that would tend to say “YES!” to those questions into action.
When control of life has slipped through our fingers and our children embarrass us or hold us hostage with their behavior, we have a decision to make. Do we believe in the power of prayer and the working of the Holy Spirit? Or is our faith placed in our own ability to control life and the environment around us? Can we wait patiently and trust the Lord to intervene? Or will we pray while in our hearts we secretly believe and act as if life depended on us?
These hard moments of parenting reveal the true state of our heart before God.
I had tried all the transformational activities I could think of. We had the “fruit of the Spirit” charts, songs, activities down! But at the end of the day, I had to realize the fruit of the Spirit isn’t a behavior management verse in the Bible. It is a statement reminding us the Holy Spirit in us, as we learn to submit to Him, transforms and creates love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness or self-control.
Scripture wasn’t designed to be manipulated as a behavior management technique.
No matter how much we desire our sticker charts to replace the anger, rage, and defiance with peace, gentleness, and self-control, only the Holy Spirit has the power to bring about change. The fruit of the Spirit is an overflow of the Spirit working in the heart.
After coming to the realization that God needed to intervene for my child, I spent the next two years begging God to save her. And begging Him to give me the faith, patience, and trust needed to wait on Him.
Instead of focusing on behavior management, I started writing out the bridge illustration to help her understand salvation. Conversations centered around how we need Jesus. I prayed over her that she would understand the Gospel, and every time her anger would overwhelm me, I prayed the Lord would reveal Himself to her.
And then one day she came out of her bedroom and said “last night in my bed I asked Jesus into my heart.”
A full year went by before my husband and I believed her. A year of us watching the Holy Spirit soften her heart, replace her anger with patience and increase her self-control. A whole year before we recognized the fruit of the Spirit in her life, acknowledged God had been working, and we could admit God had heard our cries and saved our daughter.
And in this whole process, my parenting changed.
No parenting strategy will bring our children to Jesus. Only God can do that. We are dependent on the Holy Spirit to change their hearts and create in them love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control. How desperate we are for Him to do the same in us. We can’t forget this truth. The techniques, discipline, and structure are necessary, but they are worthless without God.
The best parenting advice we will ever receive reminds us not to confuse our role with God’s. He calls us to discipline, love, and guide our children towards Him, but the transforming part is always up to God.
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- Waiting on God