How do we put the cross and Resurrection in the middle of being a parent? As a father I have come to place of accepting my limitations. I can teach my son about the love of God in Christ best by loving him. The other day, hot as it was, my son and I went out into the backyard and filled his pool with water and splashed around, feeling the coolness of the water. We ran and wrestled and played hide and go seek with a beloved set of Hot Wheels emergency vehicles. We were out there for hours upon hours.
I knew it would not last and we would be left only with memories of playing out in the hot sun. That cross of fleeting moments does not alter the fact that the glory of the garment of God is with us in love. For Jesus was with us in our moments of play. Because of these moments of playing together, the moments of disciple in which I teach my son the ways of the world and how best to navigate the world are more powerful. Usually, when parents are given advice on parenting, we are told pretty much the best way to make our children behave and mind us. While this is important, it only captures a small part of what it means to be a father to a growing, independent human being. We are in reality grooming our children to leave us to go out into the world.
Our son will leave us to build his life. The cross of time hangs over us and we know that he will grow beyond us. Already at school he is developing a life outside of his parents. We can give him a ground of love on which to grow his life, but it will be beyond us. It will be within God’s creation, though, and so we gather with our son in the presence of Jesus. He will understand love by living it. He will understand forgiveness by living it. Love that arose in a cheap pool filled with cool water on hot June day. He will know God’s presence in the too many medical trips. He will know love when fools around him can only see his bad eye and not the glory of God that fills him with joy. He will have to learn to answer their ignorance with love. It will be tough.
Jesus gave us this gift in the greatest commandment: love God and love others. These two commandments form the backbone of parenting and, like Paul said, without love you are just a harping parent, a banging gong and a technique using control freak. Love, which first means paying attention and playing with your kids, has to be the building block, because then all of the tools and techniques work. Without love, the child will wither on the vine, bearing little or bad fruit.
With love, we have to face the cross in full faith of the resurrection. That is both the glory of God’s love and the deep pain of God’s love. As my son grows and we share moments in every stage of development, I will lose a bit of myself in this love. Time will weaken me and my strength and it will strengthen him. And yet, we will both be in the presence of the living God. This knowledge fills me with joy, a joy that will sustain me until the end of the age.
So, what is Christian parenting? It is at heart a prayer in the presence of the living God. As cold water splashes me and my son’s giggling hits my heart, I live this truth, for God is with us.
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