As a mom who consulted many “how-to” books about parenting, I can tell you that most “mommy manuals” have limited value. I learned a lot about the importance of sleep for children in one book, and the importance of reading aloud in another (although, to be fair, I would have read to them anyway!). But what parents need more than anything is wisdom, what Ray Ortlund calls, “the skill for living when there is no obvious rule to go by,” and there is no greater source of wisdom for parents than our heavenly Father.
That’s why Christina Fox’s newest book, Like Our Father: How God Parents Us and Why That Matters for Our Parenting, offers more real help for parents than any “how-to” manual ever could.
The Fatherhood of God is metaphorical, to be sure, but beyond that, as Fox points out, “Father” is his literal name. In that way we understand our relationship with Him: “We belong to Him and He belongs to us” (32). We, like our children, bear the image of God, and as Christian parents, we are also His adopted children who long for our kids to know Him. Fox gives us a helpful way to think about this: … “one of the ways we image Him is in parenting our children. When we parent our children as God parents us – when we relate to them the way God relates to us – we show them who He is; we point them to their own Father in heaven” (41). By following God’s example as a Father, we not only parent them wisely, but we direct their gaze to the One who parents them perfectly.
As both the recipients of imperfect human parenting and the imperfect parents we ourselves are, we need nothing more than the gloriously perfect Fathering we are offered by God. Fox outlines specific ways our Father’s parenting is a template for our own. Below are five quotes to give you a taste of the sweet wisdom found in this gentle and helpful book.
God is consistent
When we are inconsistent in our parenting, we must remember God’s grace for us. We must remember that Christ is consistent for us when we are not. Our elder brother stands before our Father and intercedes for us. God looks at Christ and sees His perfectly consistent life lived for us. When we identify inconsistency in our lives, we can come boldly before the Father and ask for His help and wisdom…. Think of consistent parenting not as a rule that is impossible to keep but as an opportunity to show your children who God is (55)
God provides boundaries
Just as God does for us, we also set limits and rules to help point our children to their Savior. We teach them what God expects from them. We teach them His commands from Scripture. We teach them to obey god by obeying us. We teach them what glorifies God. But in so doing, we also teach them the gospel… We use rules and limits to help them learn to run to the cross and receive the free God of God’s grace in Christ. (68)
God disciplines His children
As we consider the ways our Father trains us through discipline, there are ways in which the training of our children will differ from our own training. Again, we are not the Holy Spirit. We are not tasked with transforming our children into the image of Christ. However, we are to point our children to their need for a Savior. We are to show them the way to life… This happens not only during times of Bible reading or family worship, but also as we discipline them or correct them for wrongdoing (103).
God gives us what we need
God has made us the authority in [our children’s] lives, and they are to obey that authority—for when they do so, they obey God Himself. This means we need to be comfortable with saying no when necessary. There are times when our children ask for something and we know it is not good for them so we have to say no. They may argue or resist or complain but we need to be firm in our decision…. However, it is important that when we say no to something, it is for the right reason. Sometimes, we say no because we don’t want to be inconvenienced or we don’t want to take time to truly consider their request… May they see us as parents who seek to provide what is best for them, as our Father does for us (125).
God loves His children
When we face … hard love, we must remember the Father’s love for us. He loved us when we hated Him. He rescued us when we didn’t want rescue. He bought us at a price we could never replay. Love in a fallen world is never easy, but we don’t love our children in our own strength. We rest in the fact that the Father loves them more than we ever could (160).