My wife and I were college students and had only been married a year when our first child was born. Having just turned 22, I wasn't sure I was fully prepared for this new person I was now responsible for. And, maybe it is harder for fathers to grasp because they haven't had the first-hand intensity of months of nausea, expanding waistlines and tiny feet kicking their bladder. But I've learned since, every parent has those moments when they feel the full force of parenthood.
Becoming a new parent comes loaded with fears. We fear the present and the future. We wonder if our child will turn out to be compliant, bright and successful or like some other child that we know that had the dreaded inverse of those desired traits.
I recently read a wonderful new book, "Fearless," by Max Lucado. Buy the book if you get a chance! Every chapter in the book is well-written, inspiring and very down-to-earth. But, I couldn't help but love the "My Child Is In Danger" chapter that deals with the fear of not protecting our children. Lucado writes, "Fear distilleries concoct a high-octane brew for parents - a primal, gut-wrenching, pulse-stilling dose. Whether Mom and Dad keep vigil outside a neonatal unit, make weekly visits to a juvenile prison, or hear the crunch of a bike and the cry of a child in the driveway, their reaction is the same: 'I have to do something.' No parent can sit still while his or her child suffers." Having been a parent for over 33 years, I understand exactly what Lucado is talking about.
Lucado addresses another challenge that fear brings to our parenting. I've observed these tendencies in myself and other parents. Fear can turn a parent into a prison guard who monitors every minute of their child's life and does background checks on all of their friends. Fear can stifle the growth of a child and communicate distrust. A family that has no breathing room can suffocate a child.
On the other end of the spectrum, fear can create permissive parents. When a parent believes their child will be too confined or fenced in, they lower all the boundaries. They can become so high on hugs and low on discipline that they fail to realize that appropriate discipline is an expression of love.
Permissive parents or paranoid parents. How can we avoid the extremes? I agree with Max Lucado that we need to learn how to pray for our children. Lucado says, "Prayer is the saucer into which parental fears are poured to cool." Lucado goes on to say, "Jesus says so little about parenting, makes no comments on spanking, breast-feeding, sibling rivalry, or schooling. Yet his actions speak volumes about prayer."
I couldn't agree more that prayer is a vital part of parenting. When you send them off for the day, do so with a blessing. When you tell them good night, cover them in prayer. If your daughter is stumped by algebra, pray with her about it. If you son is intimidated by the new girl in his class, pray with him about her. Pray that your children have a profound sense of their place in this world and heavenly place in the next world. Parents, we can't protect our children from every threat in life, but we can take them to the Source of Life. I'm convinced that God never dismisses a parent's prayer. Keep giving your child to God, and in the right time and the right way, God will give your child back to you.
Do you have an example of how prayer has helped you to be a better parent? I would love to hear it. Go to the Cape Coral Daily Breeze Web site and share the story on my "Family Matters" blog. Thanks!
Dennis Gingerich is Founding Pastor at Cape Christian Fellowship, located at 2110 Chiquita Blvd. S. in Cape Coral. Contemporary Worship Celebrations are held each Saturday at 5 p.m. and Sunday at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m.