Parenting by faith {not formula}

Colleen Elisabeth Chao is an editor and author. She enjoys dark-dark chocolate, side-splitting laughter, and half-read books piled bedside. She makes her home near Boise, Idaho, with her husband Eddie, their son Jeremy, and Willow the dog. 




Parenting by faith {not formula}

Parenting by faith {not formula}

Parenting by faith {not formula}

Before my son was born, I had enough parenting ideals to create my own currency. I remember saying things like, “We’re not going to work our lives around our children; they’re going to work around us,” and “I will never let my child do that.” Some ideals have served me well because they are biblical principles; but many others have been fueled by both pride and fear.

Pride and fear rob me of faith and make me crave methodologies and formulas. Oh, how badly I want step-by-step instructions for how to produce a godly, strong, mature man:

What kind of education will ensure my son reaches academic, social, and spiritual maturity?
What should I be teaching him at this age?
Is he getting all of the nutrients he needs in his diet?
What can I do to guarantee he becomes a great lover of God?

While parenting methods and manuals can be helpful (especially for new moms like me), when I put my trust in them, when I start preaching their virtues to other parents, I just may be nurturing little idols in my heart. On the one hand, I don’t need to be ashamed of feeding my son organic, gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free food due to his health issues. On the other hand, do I take pride in it? Do I feel superior to moms who don’t have to work so hard to feed their kids? Is my value wrapped up in my healthy cooking so that I’m highly offended when someone takes a jab at “organic moms”?

Dear one, I want to learn this deep down to the marrow of my soul: I want to walk by faith, not by formula.

But faith looks (and sometimes feels) pretty darn foolish. It demands that I live with mystery and messiness and shades of gray, when in fact I would feel oh-so-much better if I could have money-back guarantees and one-size-fits-all answers. It would help if I could measure myself against other moms to see how I’m progressing. But faith doesn’t need a tape measure; it demands that I fix my eyes on Jesus and “dip my foot into the waters” before they part.

Because isn’t it true that motherhood dabbles in the miraculous?

I mean, think of what parenting requires: my husband and I are called to protect our son, provide for him, train him up in the way he should go, and teach him about God as we “sit, walk, lie down, and get up.” In many ways, we lay down our lives to make sure he gets the very best we can give him—everything from food and shelter to a deep and abiding knowledge of God. There’s nothing nonchalant or blase about what we do.

But while we endeavor to give Jeremy our best, we also rest in God’s infinitely greater plans, protection, provision, revelation, and sovereign will for his life.

Do you know how impossible it is for me to simultaneously work hard and rest?

But faith walks into the impossible and says, “I can’t, but God can.” When my eyes are on Jesus, I can walk the fine line between working ambitiously for Jeremy’s good and still surrendering to a God who knows what is eternally best for Jeremy. I am called to work hard as a mom, but I’m also called to keep a quiet heart and not fear. So as I cook complicated meals around Jeremy’s allergies, teach him colors and numbers and ABC’s, memorize Scripture with him, and pray mighty prayers over him, I also relinquish my right to control his life and expect certain results. Maybe he’ll hate kale and sweet potatoes someday; maybe he’ll be mediocre academically; maybe his journey to know and love God will be long and painful.

That stuff is not my responsibility. I get to plant and water alongside my husband, “but God gives the growth.”

If Jeremy grows into a godly man, it will be God graciously using us, his parents, despite our many flaws and failures, to accomplish HIS purposes by HIS power for HIS glory. It won’t be because we chose a certain type of schooling, went to a certain church, held to a certain theology, or vigilantly observed family worship time. Yes, those are an integral part of our great responsibility as parents, and we discern those things through prayer and with a sober awareness of our high calling. But ultimately my parenting must flow from the Fountain of Life.

When I take time to drink in my Abba’s words and worship Him in His greatness, I am changed. When I spend more time on my knees than I do listening to others’ advice, my motherhood is compelled by faith, not complicated by formulas. My fearful heart is quieted, my ravenous pride starved. And my very flawed motherhood becomes this beautiful and holy offering to the One who delighted to make me a mother in the first place.

Dear one, where have you trusted in manmade methodologies instead of seeking the heart of God?

Scriptures referenced: Hebrews 11:6, Hebrews 12:2, Joshua 3, Proverbs 22:6, Deuteronomy 6:7, Proverbs 31, 1 Peter 3:4, 1 Corinthians 3:7, Psalm 36:9, 1 Timothy 1:5-7