The other day I was trying to see if I could, in some succinct way, describe what I would call successful parenting. In other words, when the sun sets on my season for having children living under my roof (the shadows are already getting long), when all our little nestlings have flown the coop, what will I consider a job well done? To satisfy my curiosity I began to scribble down a short list of thoughts that popped into my head. I wrote down most of the typical things that Christian parents might think of:
*A successful parent develops strong relationships within their family
*A successful parent should have children that are hard-working
*A successful parent should have children who are kind to those around them
*A successful parent has children who love the Lord with all their heart
*A successful parent has children that pray for their friends and future spouse
*A successful parent has children that have a daily quiet time with God
*And so on….
I surveyed my list and scrutinized each entry to determine if I thought it really embodied what it meant to be a successful parent. Do I really have to have hard-working kids to be a successful parent? Really? No. I crossed that off my list. What if my kids don’t read their Bibles regularly? Have I blown it? No. I crossed that off too. One by one, I pondered each entry and, one by one, they were each crossed off until only two remained. My list of parenting achievements boiled down to just two points:
*Our children must know that we (their father and I) love them more than we love ourselves; that our love for them is immeasurable.
*Our children must know God loves them so much that He laid down His life for them; that His love for them is immeasurable.
That’s it. If they know those two things – our love and God’s Love – just those two things, then I believe we will have been successful parents.
Did you catch what didn’t make my list? My children doing well in school didn’t make the list. Having them perform a lead role in a play isn’t there either. My list didn’t include that my kids must be polite and respectful, always obedient, free of impure thoughts, and chaste on their wedding day. It didn’t even include that they have to be Christians. All these things are good, of course, but not required for successful parenting.
Why? Because ultimately it’s not about what we do, or what they do – parents screw up and kids rebel. It’s about Love. Our love for them. Our deep, never-ending, quickly forgiving, thinking-they-are-the-best-thing-since-sliced-bread love for them. But even more importantly than our love for them is God’s incredible love for them – His suffering, substitutional, sacrificial, grace-giving love for them. I would die for my children because I love them. Jesus died a horrific death on a cross because He loved them. As their parents, my husband and I must make sure my kids understand these things deep in their soul.
Elisabeth Elliott, author of Through Gates of Splendor, opened her daily radio program* with these words taken partially from the book of Jeremiah. She said, “You are loved with an everlasting love, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” We all, at our core, want to know we are loved. Unconditionally loved. If I can show unconditional and everlasting love to my children, both my love and God’s love, a love that is based not on what our children do but who they are in Christ, then, and only then, will I have been a successful parent.