Big Picture Parenting

SHEA PATRICK|GUEST

Lately, it seems I am often at wit’s end in my parenting. We have five children in the home between the ages of 8 and 13, and many days it is a struggle to keep my head above water. In the midst of this chaos, I have found that an understanding of covenant theology—the big picture of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness to His children— provides real gospel hope for parents just like me.

These three specific truths have anchored my mind and heart:

God has not left me alone; he is with me.

I often feel crushed by the weight of the responsibility of parenting these children God has placed in my family. I desperately want to make the best decisions for them. Fortunately, I can rest in the fact that these children are the Lord’s; he loves them and is more committed to them than even my husband and I are! Even more, the promises God made to Abraham apply to my family because we are part of the covenant family.

In Genesis 17:7, God promises “And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.” Through my union with Christ, this promise is extended to me as well. As Paul wrote in Galatians, “if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (3:29). What this means practically is that God walks with me as I parent my kids— as I try to address the needs that arise moment by moment. He does so as my Father, parenting my own heart as I then seek to parent my children. My elder brother, Jesus, is an ever-present friend and intercedes for me in my weakness and failures. The Spirit is at work in me, transforming and changing my heart even as he works in my own children’s hearts.

Paul David Tripp reminds me of these truths with these encouraging words, “As you parent today, you are invited to remember that you are not alone in your house with your children. Someone else walks the hallways and stands in the family room with you… Sure there will be times when you’ll find yourself at the end of your rope, but fight fear and discouragement with expectancy; your Savior’s rope never ends, and he will never leave you alone!”[1]

Seeing the big picture reminds me of God’s presence with me in my parenting.

I parent out of the grace that has been given to me.

Our children come to the Lord the same way that we do: by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8). Ever since God promised a rescuer in Genesis 3:15, we have been under the Covenant of Grace. God draws our children to himself through grace, just as he drew us. Just as we depend on God’s grace and the work of the Spirit to change our own hearts, we depend on God to change the hearts of our children. No amount of good parenting can change the hearts of our children; we cannot save or sanctify our children. But this doesn’t mean we don’t do anything, for we play an important role in pointing them over and over to the truths of the gospel. We also model repentance to them when we mess up—which is often!

I recently responded in anger to my oldest son when he had done something wrong. His face crumpled as I voiced my frustration and displeasure. The Spirit stopped me in my tracks and caused me to repent, first to God, and then to my son. In that moment, I think my son learned more from my repentance for sin than any of my actual “parenting.”

Seeing the big picture of God’s love and faithfulness helps me to remember that my kids and I are all needy sinners dependent upon God’s abundant grace.

We always parent in the context of covenant community.

Just as God is with us as we parent our children, we are also members of the body of Christ whose members stand beside us. We are one body as Paul tells us, “so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another” (Rom. 12:5). When our children are baptized, those in the visible church raise their hand to agree to “undertake the responsibility of assisting the parents in the Christian nurture of this child.” Their Sunday School teachers, youth group leaders, and elders speak truth into their lives, show them kindness and compassion, and teach them the truth of God’s word. The body of Christ also comes alongside us to pray and lend a listening ear as we share about our parenting struggles and challenges.

My own church family has been the hands and feet of Christ by helping our foster children with schoolwork when they have been behind; taking our children to hang out; showing up for their ballgames; and even showing up for Grandparents’ Day at school. Seeing the big picture reminds me that I belong to others in God’s family who invest in my children’s lives.

Parenting can be hard. We often feel alone and depend upon our own strength to raise our children. In those difficult moments, covenant theology reminds us of who God is for us. May the truths of God’s covenant love and care for us be an anchor for our parenting.

[1] Paul David Tripp, Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family, p.44.

About the Author:

Shea Patrick

Shea Patrick is a former Alabama lawyer, now SAHM living in Orangeburg, South Carolina. She and her pastor-hubby have four children, including two adopted from foster care. She serves as the Regional Advisor for the Mid-Atlantic Region. Shea loves live music, reading, and watching reruns of the Golden Girls and Designing Women. She loves her church, Trinity Presbyterian, and serves with the kids, music, missions, and women’s ministry.

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