Parenting by “Shepherding a Child’s Heart”
“Shepherding a Child’s Heart” is not magic. It is not a Christian “rabbit’s foot”. Christian parenting cannot be focused on “saving” our children. It is only the work of the Spirit of God that can subdue our children’s hearts. We “shepherd our children’s hearts” because that is the work God has given us to do. We want to bring God’s Truth to our children and live before our children with humility and in full dependence on God to demonstrate the life-giving qualities of the Gospel. Salvation is from the Lord.
It is good to reflect on Christ as our model. Christ did not remain in heaven and shout to us here on earth, “I have given you my revelation! You know what I expect of you! Now, just do it! Obey my law!” Rather, he came to earth, but not in his royal splendor. He came in flesh like ours, in human weakness and frailty. Why did he do this? Hebrews 2 tells us. “He was made like his brothers in every way so that he could be a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God.” Christ is our model. Shepherding our children is NOT us standing over them telling them what to do and what not to do. Shepherding our children is a reflection of Christ’s ministry to us. He stands with us. He has compassion on us. He helps us in our weakness. Rather than scolding us, he forgives us and assures us of his love and care. Even when we must bear the consequences of our sin and failure, he brings hope and restores us. I want to reflect those qualities in my parenting. Here’s why.
Shepherding our children is a reflection of Christ’s ministry to us
My children can’t see this God I’m always telling them about. They can see me. I represent this God. I give him a reputation by the ways I talk and respond to all of life. I want to give him an accurate reputation. He is not harsh and legalistic. He is a judge. But when I am his child, all the wrath and punishment that condemns my sin was borne by Jesus. He was not only my advocate with his Father, but the one who served my sentence. He lived perfectly because I could not. He died to make me righteous, and he is my high priest who continually claims his sacrifice in my behalf. What a Savior!
Parenting role when children become adults?
We always told ourselves that we were raising our children to leave. Marriage is the permanent relationship. Parent/child relationship is meant to change radically when young people take responsibility for their own care and support, or get married. Mutuality takes the place of dependence as our children grow into adulthood. Our parental role gets reshaped. When our children become adults, we relate to them as adults. We begin to interact with them using the “one-anothering” callings of Scripture. Certainly, there is an intensity and immediacy in the parent/adult child relationship that sets it apart from other relationships in the body of Christ. But we want to foster the ministries of prayer for, encouragement of, and support for the new family units forged from our marriage and parenting that we would grant to any other adult. This calls for not continuing to hold authority over adult children. Recognize that their marriage becomes their primary and permanent relationship as well. We have noticed, especially when adult children are near by geographically, that their privacy is important to them. It is important for them not to feel like they have to report or keep a running commentary on their daily lives to their parents. This is often a struggle for parents of adult children because they take this as a personal rejection of them. Then they act strangely and their adult children don’t understand why! It becomes a vicious cycle. And that is just a simple illustration of the scores of conflicts that can arise when Mom and Dad want to continue to maintain the same intimacy they enjoyed with children and teenagers after the kids are grown. To their adult children it feels confining and childish for the parents to not “let go”. Parents need to learn the level of involvement that their adult child and his or her spouse are comfortable with and be satisfied and joyful participants in the relationship they can have, rather than demanding the level of involvement the parent’s want.
Another dimension of relationship with adult children is the dynamic of grand-parenting. Grandparents must always support the standards and training objectives of their children. Obviously I am speaking of parenting that is within the bounds of Scripture. Grandparents have a marvelous opportunity to be an influence for good and to be cheerleaders for their own children as they strive to raise these children in God’s ways. We must never say to our grandchildren, for instance, “I know your Mom and Dad don’t allow you to watch this TV program at home, but you’re at our house now, and you can watch whatever you want!” If our grandchildren ask to do something we know is against their parent’s wishes, we say, “ I love you, and I want you to enjoy being with us. But I don’t believe your Mom and Dad would want you to watch that, so you may not watch it here. You must always obey Mom and Dad, even when they are not present. That’s the path of blessing for you. Let’s watch this instead!”
Strive to be a godly influence in your adult child’s life just as you would with a friend who you love. Sometimes this means you must bear with watching as they flounder and make mistakes. Then you come along side them, reminding them that you love them unconditionally, and that God will care for us and them, as we hope in him, and straighten out our crooked paths. You may be thinking to yourself, “Yes, but what if my adult child does not know God and has rebelled against my Christian faith?” The answer is really the same. Speak the truth in love where you are able and love them unconditionally. Pray that God will use your kindness, patience, and love to show them the beauties of Christ.
About Tedd & Margy Tripp
Tedd and Margy have spent their fifty years of marriage in various ministries. Early on, an open home ministry in the 70’s whetted their interest in Christian worldview. This was followed by pastoral ministry and starting a Christian school. All of these experiences , most importantly, raising children themselves, caused them to focus on marriage and childrearing ministry. Shepherding the Heart Ministries is the fruit of these years of experience.
Interviewed by Dijo John & Merlyn John