I’m three months pregnant and beginning to feel anxious about my lack of good parenting knowledge. The nightmares of my children growing up to be terribly evil people and the world blaming me have not been fun. I’ve read that these bad dreams during pregnancy are quite normal, so I thought I would share what I’ve been doing to calm my fears.
I’ve begun to read a very interesting parenting book given to me called, Give them Grace: Dazzling your children with the love of Jesus, by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson. It is a book that instructs on gospel-centered parenting. I’m half-way through the book and have riddled it with a highlighter. I strongly recommend it to parents of all ages.
What has dazzled me the most about this book? It answers an intense question I’m sure many parents ask; “What parenting technique will make my children turn out right?” More specifically, Christian parents are asking, “What rules can you give me to parent my children so that they will become Christians?” But the authors’ response is not simply, “the gospel, of course,” but a seemingly disheartening, “none.” In fact, Fitzpatrick and Thompson teach that no parenting tactic, not even one that is gospel-saturated, will make a child good or ensure their salvation. “There are no promises in the bible of salvation, or even success for faithful parenting…God doesn’t promise our children’s salvation in response to our obedient parenting.” (pp.60 & 62).
The authors provide many examples in scripture of righteous, God-fearing parents raising children who ultimately disbelieve and rebel against God and community (e.g. the prodigal son story in Luke 15). They drive this idea home again and again: your parenting alone does not have the power to produce good or believing children. So what hope is there? Why should I even care about parenting my children well, especially by utilizing the gospel?
Our hope is this: God alone is good. God alone can save. And God will use your parenting to accomplish his will. We ought to parent our children in light of how faith in the gospel has impacted us. By grace God chose to save sinners like us. We were not saved because our parenting is good, or because of any other good work. He saved us because Jesus’ perfect record was granted to us by faith. The joy that we are saved by such grace ought to propel us to teach this message to our children and pray that God would have mercy on them and save them too. But even if we give them the best gospel-teaching and love them with the tangible love of God, they will not be saved unless God himself changes their hearts to believe.
In one sense, it is difficult to let go of my hope for control over my children’s future development and eternal destinies. But, in a far greater sense, I am relieved of such a daunting burden. If God is in control, I am freed from my deepest fear of failing to produce good children who love God. And I am also free to raise them with grace because I know that I have been shown amazing grace by God through faith in the gospel. My attention is reoriented away from trying to get my children saved to seeking to glorify God in the way I interact with them. God may perhaps use my life to save them! “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing,” (2 Corinthians 2:14-15).
I’ll end with the encouragement I have from this book: Only God has the power to save your children and give them the strength to walk in righteousness. And He is a gracious God! So take off those burdens, and put on the cross to which you have been given as parents (and prospective parents). Love God and love people. Teach your children the ways of the Lord. Discipline them well. Teach them the gospel. That is your duty, and you can do it. Then pray for their hearts to be made new in Christ. That is God’s duty, and He can do it!
To learn more, please get this book for yourself, it’s a good read.