One of the highest hours of my life was at 8:19 p.m., March 29, 1984 at Alexandria Hospital in Alexandria, Virginia. It was the birth of my oldest child, Jeremiah David. Most of the events of that day are deeply etched on my mind and provide memories that I will treasure until I die.
I always wanted to be a father. One of the biggest reasons was the good relationship I had with my own Dad and the impact he had on my life. Even before I was engaged I was preparing to be a parent.
For example, I read the book of Proverbs (the best parenting manual in the world) and looked for every verse that dealt with the responsibility of both the parent and the child. In the margin beside those verses I wrote the letters “c” or “p”. The first stood for “child’s responsibility” and the latter for “parent’s responsibility”. It was a simple code, but one that reminded me of those principles and commandments each time I read Proverbs.
Being a parent is one of the most important priorities I have in my life – and I desperately want to be successful in it. (My first three priorities in life all deal with relationships – with God, my wife, and my children, in that order).
The good news is that God has given us a guidebook in how to be a successful parent, the Bible. Even as I wrote the title for this post, I hesitated – “How to Be a Successful Parent”. It makes a promise on my part that is either foolish, incredibly arrogant or worthy of reading.
Most people think parenting is a happenstance matter. Sometimes things turn out good and sometimes they turn out bad. I have heard people refer to parents as being “lucky” because they had good kids. Successful parenting isn’t a result of luck, fate or good fortune. If we follow God’s ways in His Word He has promised to bless us and this includes parenting our children.
The title of the post makes a bold promise, but it also begs an important question – what is a successful parent? Is it possible to accomplish such a task?
One of my favorite quips on parenting is given by John Wilmot, “Before I got married I had 6 theories on raising children. Now I have 6 children and no theories”. Gratefully, we have more than theories; we have clear direction from God’s Word to help us.
Successful parenting is grounded in the same premise in having a strong marriage – it must be based on the Word of God. We cannot have God’s results without following His ways. However, if you follow your own reasoning and natural inclinations you are not going to have the blessing of God upon your efforts. Then, it’s reduced to experimentation, following a favorite author or best seller, and hoping it all works out somehow.
We can be sincere about a matter and be sincerely wrong. The Bible states, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” (Prov. 14:12) Note that the path one chooses “seemeth right”. This isn’t referring to one intending to do what is wrong, but what they perceive to be right. The consequences are the “ways of death”. We can sincerely follow what we think is good for our children and later have hurt and regret.
One challenge for parents is settling for far less than God intended concerning our children. Many are content if their kids go to college, stay off of drugs, have a decent marriage, land a good job, and don’t get into any major trouble. I believe there is far, far more that God can and wants to do for your children.
What is God’s recipe to be a successful parent? No one is going to be a perfect parent, but we can be effective parents. We can influence and lead our children to the way God intends for them to follow.
Before I develop this theme in several posts that will follow I need to offer a sincere and necessary disclaimer. We have seven children and, like their parents, not a one of them is perfect. To be truthful, I am hesitant to write about the topic because I don’t want to indicate that Paula and I never struggled as parents nor do I want any pressure or expectations on my children. I will say this, we have done our best to train and equip them for life and service to God and others. This has been a major priority for me.
That doesn’t mean we always hit a home run in every thing we did. Not at all. Occasionally there would be a good line drive, but there were a lot of bunt singles, and sometimes we struck out. (If you’re not a baseball fan, forgive the metaphor, it won’t make sense to you!) It was (and still is) hard work.
I have diligently studied the subject with many hours of reading, thinking, and praying. In fact, I’m sure I have read more books on the topic of the family than any other. I love my kids – Jeremiah, Jonathan, Ashley, Jordan, April, Jake and Aubrey – with all of my heart. I think they know that and would testify to that – even in spite of my failures.
There are four primary truths from the Bible that will undergird us in this incredibly difficult, but incredibly rewarding task called parenting. Each of them are important and necessary. My heart is that these posts would be helpful and encouraging to you. We’ll tackle them in the next few weeks.