What Makes Great Faith-Based Parents? (pt 6)

Reliance Upon the Holy Spirit (Part 2 of 4)

Relying upon the Holy Spirit as a parent is not for the faint of heart. It requires deeper faith, more patience and lots of love.

We all love our kids. The question we need to ask ourselves is do my kids sense, feel and believe that I love them when they fall short, make bad decisions or are caught in a lie? When I began looking at how Jesus handled issues in people’s lives, it was not fun. It was clear that I looked almost nothing like Him in my approach with my two girls at that point in time.

I was convicted as I studied Jesus and realized He did not tell the disciples to ask “What would Jesus do?” as he prepared to leave their lives. Instead he said I am sending you a counselor, a guide, someone who will remind you of everything you have been taught and will convict the world of sin and of righteousness. He was talking about the Holy Spirit.

“And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby), to be with you forever—”
John 14:16

Jesus even taught the disciples that it was better that He depart, so the Spirit would come. After they scattered in fear at Jesus’ arrest, the disciples took this to heart. Later when Jesus arose, He instructed them to wait for the Spirit and they did. They waited and the Spirit showed up in a miraculous way at Pentecost resulting in thousands of converts in the most unlikely place, Jerusalem.

Yet, are we taught to turn to the Spirit with our kids? As a parent I hear so many messages that say we are the authority and change agent in our kids’ lives that it is easy to begin to believe and function like we are. Many programs point to discipline that we understand to mean punishment, behavioral boundaries or behavior modification tactics. Some are softer, more logic based and some are more understanding but they all stem from the idea that we parents can control or change our kids’ behavior. The problem is that these approaches to parenting do not recognize the vital role the Holy Spirit plays in our and our kids’ lives.

Today it seems that we have come to believe that our kids cannot be responsible and mature until they are older. This is based on the outcomes we see in kids’ lives across our society. I see this as a function of how we view adolescents and the way we approach kids today. Rather than just saying this is the way it is… kids will become unhappy with us, push back and distance from us no matter what, I prefer to ask why does this occur?

When I look at times past, I do not see kids being lazy and irresponsible into their twenties. In fact when kids were 8 or 9 they would be given very real responsibility on the farm or as an apprentice. This was not taking out the trash, but caring for and tending to herds, planting gardens that would feed their family or being taught trades that had elements of risk and danger. As a result, kids prospered and matured. Mary was 13 or 14 when she gave birth to Jesus; she handled it maturely because she had been prepared for adult responsibilities.

Involving the Spirit is especially crucial as our kids move towards and enter adolescence. The fact that we believe they cannot handle real responsibility influences the way we approach them. It also contributes to our overlooking the Holy Spirit and the essential role He plays in guiding, growing and maturing our kids.

Two roles the Spirit can play in our kids lives should cause us to question what we have come to believe is a biblical model for parenting.

  1. Jesus taught the disciples that the Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin and righteousness, not just believers but everyone. This is why people feel guilty and encounter issues with shame whether they are believers or not. It is the reason many kids and adults accept Jesus as their savior. They felt the Spirit’s conviction and responded to Jesus who removed their guilt with His complete forgiveness. He understands our weaknesses and expects us to fail until our last breath on earth extending us amazing grace. God has provided us an awesome guide who convicts our hearts revealing both what is right to do and also what is wrong.
  2. Paul teaches in Romans 5:5 that the Spirit pours love into our hearts, not human based conditional love, but God’s unconditional love. Jesus lovingly addressed sinners with unconditional love seen in His gentleness, kindness and compassion. Having this love is essential to combatting the tempting, relativistic world that will accept our kids and anything they want to do. We will discuss this in next week’s blog Great Faith-based Parents Rely on the Spirit, part 3.

As I speak to kids across the country I find a direct correlation between the approach parents take handling issues and the amount and severity of the issues in kids’ lives. How we handle their shortcomings and failures is essential. According to the Bible these issues and shortcomings will occur throughout their entire lives. We all fall short this side of heaven; we grow and improve but never arrive. The way we approach our kids makes a huge difference in determining if our kids end up living in guilt and shame or living in forgiveness with a healthy, well-rounded view of themselves within their heart and soul. Sadly many of the parents I work with carry internal negativity that either drives them to succeed, causes them to hide, or crashes their confidence. They are robbed of their true rounded potential. I find this heart breaking and in case you re wondering, until fairly recently I have been one of those adults.

If we see the Spirit as the convicting agent in our kids’ lives, it can free us as parents in amazing ways. First, it removes our need to be a negative parent. We don’t need to point out all their failures in a convicting manner, a manner that sends hidden messages that tell them they are a bad person, not good enough, a failure or not trustworthy. Seeing the Holy Spirit as the one who convicts alters our view of the role we have in our kids’ lives and helps us come to expect failure and see it as an opportunity for the Spirit to work in their hearts and lives.

Second, when the Spirit is the source of conviction in my kids’ lives, it takes the pressure off me to make sure they know they are wrong. I can step back, take time and seek to discover what the Spirit is saying to them related to their failure. When I began to believe this and stepped back as their convicting agent, it quickly became clear that my kids did feel guilty and wanted to see change in their lives. They just never let me know it because they were protecting themselves from my authoritative change agent approach. The fact that they were protecting themselves and were not sharing how failure was impacting them was the reason I never saw or understood that the Spirit was convicting my kids. As a result my kids did not know how to respond to the conviction of the Spirit. They were too busy trying to avoid my playing god in their lives in a manner that looked nothing like Jesus. I had not developed a relationship with them that allowed me to help them learn to listen and respond to the Spirit.

They were being convicted and felt badly but my approach squashed their ability to feel safe and share their deep sense of guilt and failure. The level to which they were feeling guilty and desiring to change surprised me. Seeing this made it so much easier to step back and focus on becoming the encourager that scripture says I was to be. This solved the dilemma I had had with the studies that state: for every one negative you need to deliver 10 positives to your kid. While I was playing the convicting change agent this seemed impossible to me.

Do I do this perfectly? No. Do I still get frustrated at times when I am tired or stressed and not act like the Holy Spirit? Yes. Does it work? No! At these times I need to go to God and ask for forgiveness and go to my kids and do the same. This is essential to our closeness and my ability to come alongside and help them respond to the Spirit and learn from their mistakes and failures, like the disciples experienced with Jesus.

The challenge is to overcome our fear of removing our pressure and conviction as well as to develop the patience to respond kindly and lovingly when our kids make the same mistake for the fifth time. We will explore this and the Holy Spirit’s role of pouring love into our hearts next week.

In the meantime ask yourself if you have made the same mistake over and over in God’s eyes? If so did God get angry and punish you or did he gently convict your heart and wait for you to respond and seek His help to bring change into your life?

Have a great week and ponder whether or not you have slipped into the mindset of being the convicting or change agent in your kids’ lives. I have found the Holy Spirit is far better at changing my kids’ hearts then I will ever be!

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