My alarm goes off every day. Our dishes are dirty after every meal. Our kids get ready for bed every night. From sunup to sundown, my attitude and the attitudes in my home fluctuate. There are a multitude of responses, reactions, interruptions, enjoyments, and that’s all by breakfast. With each Monday comes a reminder of all of the important things we have not yet decided, and all of the mundane things that take up too much of our time.
And when my alarm goes off the next morning it seems that the truth I need the most, is also the truth I forget the easiest: as parents we desperately, desperately need Jesus for everything, at all times.
The good news is, as Christians we HAVE Jesus.
Lately, God has been teaching me how greatly I need Jesus for all of life, especially my home life. To be honest with you it has not been an easy lesson to learn. He is teaching me what I’ve known in my head, but not always believed in my heart: I can do nothing apart from Christ, but in him I can do all things (Phil. 4:13). In particular in the parenting and leading of my home, I find that my biggest problem is attempting to fill these roles I’ve been given in my own effort. My attempts to walk as a Christian through my own efforts reveal my unbelief in Christ. I think he is teaching me what it means to be poor in spirit so that I can learn to walk by his Spirit instead of my own.
In a few recent sermons, my pastor has expressed how the Apostle Paul prayed for the New Testament churches continuously. Continuously! Paul knew from his own conversion experience that what the churches needed, only God could provide. This is what it means to be “poor in spirit”: to believe that I have zero ability to provide what I truly need for my family, but God has provided what I truly need in Christ. Paul was poor in spirit, and it drove him to pray continuously. As Paul E. Miller writes in A Praying Life, “You don’t need self-discipline to pray continuously; you just need to be poor in spirit” (54).
I cannot attain or sustain Christian growth as a father through my efforts. Christian growth is imparted to me by faith in Christ. This is what it means to walk by the Spirit as a Christian and as a parent.
When I fail to see growth in the fruit of the Spirit in my own life as I relate to my kids, I’m tempted to try to attain Christian growth in my own effort. Ever tried to be more disciplined in your “spiritual walk?” I have and when I do, I can relate to C.S. Lewis, who said, “No man knows how bad he is until he tries to be good.” God did not save us in Christ so that we can now walk by our own effort in the responsibilities he has given us.
Our union with Christ is a demonstration of the Spirit and his power, not of our discipline, our knowledge, or our cleverness (1 Cor. 4:20; 1:30).
By God’s doing I am in Christ Jesus. Christ Jesus became my sanctification. This is why Paul tells the churches to walk by the Spirit. Walking by the Spirit is living in the reality of what God has done and is doing through the finished work of Christ. As a father my emotions become the invitation to walk by the Spirit. Am I frustrated with my kids, disappointed with my own parenting, overwhelmed by all the needs and my inability to meet them all? All of these are invitations for dependency. The storms of life are only terrifying if he who commands the storms is not present. But he is. Dane Ortlund says, “The Lord Jesus above, to whom you are united, is not asking for you to scramble along on your hamster wheel of anxieties today. He is asking you to collapse into his open arms and then stumble your way forward with his own mighty arm around you.”
How do we parent in the Spirit? We pray. We come to God as we are, and ask for him to do in us what we cannot do in ourselves. We have received Christ by faith and now we are called to walk by faith as we parent our children. Yes, we desperately, desperately, need Jesus to parent our kids through the mundane rhythms of life.
The good news is that we HAVE Jesus.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Rom. 15:13)