Abiding in Christ: The Firm Foundation of Parenting
Who hasn’t had that moment in parenting when you saw red instead of any logic at all? It was an overreaction. And it was ugly. The button was pushed, a line was crossed, and a full-scale blow up ensued. Or how about when you despair over your teenager’s decisions that reflect poorly on them and perhaps on your parenting?
As Christians, we are not exempt from mistakes in parenting. We weren’t inoculated against parenting failures when we accepted Christ. And, though I likely need not mention it, our children are not perfect either. But what we did receive upon salvation is a relationship with God through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Our gracious God sent Jesus to be the perfect sacrifice for our sins and substitution for sins’ wages in order to restore us to relationship with God. Not only does this miracle occur, but God sends his Holy Spirit to dwell in us, nudging and convicting us along the way.
Jesus says in John 15:4-5, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” Jesus describes himself as the “true vine” and the Father as the “vinedresser” (John 15:1). Both are integrally and actively part of and involved in the lives of branches, which is us Christians.
The word abide means to stay, dwell, remain, or to be present. Jesus tells us to dwell in him and that He will dwell in us in turn. When we are present with Christ — reading His Word, communing with Him through worship, praying to Him — Christ tells us that we will bear fruit. We will grow just as a well-watered vine grows fruit.
As the branch relies upon the vine for nourishment, Christians rely upon God for everything, whether we realize it or not. The branch may not see its need for the vine unless it were to be cut off or disconnected from it. Similarly, creation often forgets our need of the Creator until we see the painful stunted growth resulting from our departure from Him.
My need for Him is evident when I lose my temper and must ask forgiveness. It is evident when my pride in my child’s ability clouds my view. It is evident when I wonder if and where my child will go to college. It is evident when my child messes up publicly, and my parenting is under the microscope. In all these situations, and even ones when things are going well, I need Jesus.
Beyond being connected to God, fostering intimacy with God takes time, just like in any relationship. And time is at a premium for most anyone, especially parents. When we want to get to know a friend better, we seek him or her out, talk together, ask questions, and listen. So must we do with the Lord.
In the Bible we read of His character through His actions and reactions to the world He created. I see God’s character come to life in the overarching story of rescue and redemption from man’s broken relationship with God in Eden to the coming of Christ to restore it. I see God turn His face toward His people lovingly time and time again, despite their many and varied mistakes. I am drawn again and again to the Lord the more I get to know Him through the Bible. The more I spend time with Jesus through prayer, the more comfortable I am coming to Him with everything. The conversation becomes natural and flowing. The more I know Him and spend time with Him, the more I trust Him with my life and my children’s lives, because I see that He is trustworthy and true.
One verse that has strengthened me through many seasons of my life, which have included an international move, marriage, parenthood, and grief, is Psalm 26:3: “For Your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in Your faithfulness.” It points to the love God has for us, expressed through the Bible and my own experiences. The verse ends with a call to action: to walk in His faithfulness. I don’t walk in my faithfulness to God, for it is a weak and wavering flame at times. My quiet times get disrupted; my mind wanders. Instead I walk forward in the faithfulness of God to me, as evidenced through Jesus’ once-and-for-all rescue of me. His love for me is never disrupted; His mind does not wander from His beloved.
Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Parenting teenagers is undoubtedly a time of need. We need a constant anchor as we navigate the constantly changing world of teens. By drawing near to God, we are drawing on a source and foundation who will not forsake us or our children. He will buoy us up both when parenting gets hard and when it goes smoothly.
This truth does not mean that I won’t ever get a call from school about misbehavior or that my child will be spared pain. It does mean that Jesus is in it with me, and that He actually cares more for my child than I do. His desire is for my good and my child’s good. And the more time I spend with Him, abiding in Him, the more evident his gracious, kind disposition toward me is.