I knew more. . . alot more. . .about parenting before I ever had kids myself. Then I had kids. Then I had teenagers. Then I got to the age I'm at now. Along the way, reality came at me through experience, and then even more importantly, God's Word.
My own personal history from one who was sure of and dependent on the "foolproof" stuff I once believed. . . to sure of the ignorance of the "foolproof" stuff I once believed and currently experiencing the joy and freedom of riding along while God's at the wheel. . . has been quite a journey. Early in the journey I immersed myself in every Christian parenting book I could find. I was in search of the foolproof formula that would enable me to become the perfect parent raising perfect kids. I don't know how many books I digested before giving up. I'm glad that it didn't take too long to realize that those books leave you feeling quite beat up. I stopped reading them. Why? Because as your eyes are locked on the pages, they're also locked on your own heart. And what you see on the page doesn't mesh with the complex darkness that exists inside, which explains why the formulas don't lead to fruit.
Now, I run into parents each and every week who are looking for the "how to." It's not there. Rather, I'm convinced that our certainty, joy, and wisdom as parents is dependent on who we believe. If there's a secret, it lies in knowing, worshiping, following, and believing the One who made us for Himself. It comes in bathing ourselves in the truths of His Word. I was reminded of this yesterday when our pastor preached on the Resurrection from Matthew 22. The answer Jesus gave to the ignorant Sadducees applies to all of us and our confusion in life. . . even when it comes to our misplaced priorities and beliefs regarding parenting and our kids. Jesus said, "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God" (v. 29).
If we only knew the Scriptures we would see that many of our parenting beliefs and practices are about replacing the Creator with created things. . . including our parenting skills, our twisted beliefs, the family, and even our kids. They can all become idols.
So for the last few years I've been committed to answering the question, "What's the best parenting book I can read?" with this simple answer: "The best parenting book I've ever read is Paul Tripp's "Age of Opportunity: A Biblical Guide to Parenting Teens." For one, Paul gets the Creator and created priorities right. Paul knows how sinful we and our kids really are. Paul knows how dependent we are on God. Paul knows that there are no foolproof formulas. Paul knows because he knows the Word, and he's been through it as a dad. It's a great book.
This morning I finished a book that joins "Age of Opportunity" on my list. A few weeks ago I mentioned Leslie Leyland Fields' article - "The Myth of the Perfect Parent" - in Christianity Today Magazine. The article was full of truth that is liberating to those of us who have bought the lies. It made me want to hear more from this mother of six. She sent me a copy of her book, "Parenting is Your Highest Calling. . . and 8 Other Myths That Trap Us in Worry and Guilt." Now I've got a number two on my list. Fields addresses each of the 9 myths straight from the Scriptures in a way that leaves readers wondering, "Duh, how did I ever miss that?!?" She busts through the myths by taking us into a deeper understanding of the sovereignty of God and His grace in the lives of fallen humans who cannot save themselves.
The myths (and idols!) Fields' says we believe? . . .
1. Having children makes you happy.
2. Nurturing your children is natural and instinctive.
3. Parenting is your highest calling.
4. Good parenting leads to happy children.
5. If you find parenting difficult, you must not be following the right plan.
6. You represent Jesus to your children.
7. You will always feel unconditional love for your children.
8. Successful parents produce Godly children.
9. Why God is not limited by imperfect families.
Do you scoff at any of these myths? Don't. . . until you've read the book.