Parenting is, for the most part, on the job, real-time training. Oh sure – you can read some books, listen to some podcasts, watch some sitcoms, and seek out some council, but nothing can really prepare you for the actual work of raising children. It’s the difference between reading the rulebook, studying the plays, and memorizing the names of players – and actually putting football pads on and stepping onto the field. In the end, you will inevitably be unprepared and will have to learn as you go.
And you will learn, won’t you? I certainly have. I still am. Our children are inadvertently excellent teachers. Their very presence teaches us about responsibility, about patience, and about sacrifice. We learn through them what it means to forgive, what true and deep pain feels like, and how to make tough choices in love.
But we can also learn much from them about the nature of faith. Again, it’s not intentional teaching on their part – but our children are incredible teachers when it comes to the way God desires us to relate to Him in the gospel. You might even argue that the example of faith that all of us, who are parents, need to follow is already living in our homes in the persons of our children.
There was once a day when the disciples of Jesus were frustrated by all the parents bringing their children to see and be blessed by Jesus. They were, in the disciples’ eyes, an annoyance and a distraction from the important work at hand. But to Jesus, these children were actually standing at the threshold of the kingdom of God. And rather then sending them away, he told His disciples they had a lot to learn from them:
People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me. Don’t stop them, because the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” After taking them in his arms, he laid his hands on them and blessed them (Mark 10:13-16).
It’s counter-intuitive, isn’t it? Of course it is, because parents are teachers. We teach our kids not to touch hot things, not to run into the street, and when and where to go to the bathroom for crying out loud. We are the shapers of minds; the dispensers of wisdom; the sages of knowledge. It’s true that we don’t know everything we ought to, and that we truly are in the middle of on-the-job training every single day, but we are definitely further along than they are.
And yet in this case, when it comes to faith, these kids have some things to show us. And we have some things to learn.
I know, parents – it’s tough to think this way. At least it is if we’re honest. But it will do our souls some good to humble ourselves enough to admit that one of the great ironies of our faith is that the older we get, the most like children we should be becoming. Perhaps it’s time that every once in a while, we were quiet and reflective enough to simply watch out kids. To observe them. To pray that God would open our eyes to the beauty and simplicity of what it means to be a child, and then to marvel at the fact that we can come to Him through Christ in the exact same way.
Be a teacher today, moms and dads. But be a student as well. Your kids have some things they need to pass onto you.