Friday, March 03, 2006

Christian Parenting and Viewing Children

"What's that?" I asked, gesturing towards a proper stiff paper bag that appeared to be from a Japanese retailer attempting to write French.

The new father lifted an overladden hand,"This? Oh. Just more offerings for the little god at home."

We'd spoken of the challenges of parenthood before they got preggers. The temptation to divided loyalty, the tendency to put child before God and spouse, the greatly lessened opportunities to read the Bible together, encourage and be encouraged by other Christians, to be reminded of God's truth and even just to pray together. Or actually, just to get some uninterrupted sleep.

When a couple in a much earlier DG had their first child, we thought through their new status with them. But since we were all just out of school and hadn't been brought up in Christian households, we could not conceive (no pun intended) what struggles young parents could possibly have in this other stage of life. So we searched the Bible thoroughly, consulted the Mums and Babes group that met on Wednesday mornings at ARPC, read everything we could get our hands on, and of course, prayed rather hard.

There seem to be 2 challenges unique to people at this stage of life:
  1. viewing children in a proper light, ensuring that new baby doesn't become a (new) idol; and
  2. being godly parents, bringing the kids up in God's way.
Viewing Children
It seems that on one extreme, some parents view children as the bane of their life, a hinderance to their freedom and to be put away with their grandparents or nannies as soon and as much as possible so that the parents can get back to the way they used to live before the kids were spawned. On the other extreme, some parents are extremely possessive and obsessed about their children, making decisions and revolving their lives around their progeny. And along the way, there are parents who are stressed and confused with what to do with their offspring right from the beginning: how to feed him, when to feed him, how much to feed him, what to feed him, and after feeding and burping and changing him, why is he still crying? And some moms, unable to bond with their baby, uncertain what to expect, unable to cope with the change of lifestyle, both in pain and bored out of their brains at home, convinced that they are horrid mothers, battle undiagnosed post-natal depression, saved (so a mother of 2 shared last night) from flinging their wailing offspring out the window by some rational remnant of their Christian minds.

At times like these, those of us with more sleep and not being flung about on a hormonal rollercoaster ride, must give them our love and support, adult company, and remind and comfort them with God's words:

Children, the Bible tells us, are gifts from God. They are a heritage from the LORD and a reward from him (Psalm 127:3). Unless God gives them to us, we attempt to procreate in vain (Psalm 127:1-3). If they are God's gracious gifts to us, then they are inherently valuable and we must treasure them, give them our love, care, nurture and protection from harm. We are not to resent them, ignore them, abuse them or use them to further our own ends.

Because children are gifts from God, choosing not to have children, insisting on remaining "child free" in marriage to avoid the enormous emotional, personal and financial burden of having even one for the freedom of lifestyle, is a perversity. But really: aren't children a nuisance? Don't they yell and scream and so like dogs, are banned from good restaurants and concert halls? Don't they limit our gospel opportunities? Is it any surprise that the disciples rebuked those who brought children to Jesus (Matthew 19:13)? What's with asking for them to be prayed for when Jesus was telling the adults great and important things?

But Jesus said,"Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these" (Matthew 19:14).

Note that he did not say,"Let the little children come to me because they are cute". Similarly, this post does not have gratuitous images of big-eyed babies looking appealingly into the camera because the value of children does not depend on their cuteness. Some kids have no chance of being cute. Some are so ugly and so deformed, so conniving and so nasty, that on no account would anyone call them cute.

But we value children and love them because (1) being God's gifts to us, they are inherently valuable; (2) being human and made in the image of God, they are inherently valuable; (3) in becoming parents, we reflect the fatherhood of God; a fatherhood that loves the undeserving and protects the weak and dependent; and (4) we have a Father who values and loves us as children.
At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:1-4)
The point is not to be naive or have blind faith, but to be humble towards God because we know our perversity and our inability to save ourselves. It is to acknowledge that God is the only one who can save us and depend on Jesus' death on the cross to do just that.

We don't view children correctly just because we generally like kids and giving them sweeties and piggyback rides. We view children correctly when we realise how we ourselves like children cannot but be humble and dependent on God our Father our existence and sustenance and salvation and remember how he welcomes us into his presence. How then can we not welcome children into our own presence in Jesus' name (Matthew 18:5)?


I. BabyChristian Parenting and Viewing Children
II. BoyChristian Parenting and the Salvation of Children
III. Collage-babystuffChristian Parenting as Ministry, and Teaching Children


At March 06, 2006 7:35 am , Blogger kelvin said...

Thought this might interest you:

At March 07, 2006 1:28 pm , Blogger shadow said...

Thanks Kelvin. I suppose there's no point trying to forcibly treat the symptoms if the patient refuses to acknowledge he has a disease and doesn't want to be cured of it.

At the same time, why should parents be hypochondriacal about the symptoms if they are sure that their children don't have the disease (that is, the disease of general rebellion against God).

At March 08, 2006 10:07 am , Blogger kelvin said...

I think the issue here isn't about refusal of treatment, but the efficacy of treatment(s) offered that might do more harm than good. Treatments that are not evidence-based or sound "too good to be true" probably are not advicable without more probing into the treatment.

Think facilitated communication.


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