Day 39 – The Secret to Extraordinary Parenting

Ephesians 6:1–4 NIV

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise—“so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

Consider This

I have four children, ranging in ages from twelve to seventeen. The longer I parent the more I realize I know nothing about parenting. I could not write a book about it. Though I have what I consider to be some of the best parents in the world, I struggle to write this entry.

The problem with parenting is we don’t parent from what we know. We parent from who we are. No matter what or how much we teach and train our children, the bigger reality and principle of parenting is that whatever is in us we pass on to our children’the good, the bad, and, yes, the ugly. It passes to them in a million ways over which we have no control.

The same thing happened between us and our parents. Parenting is a multigenerational enterprise whose challenges are only exceeded by its complexities. Like it or not, everyone parents (to one degree or another) the way they were parented. All parents carry forward both the blessings and the brokenness of their own parents, who carried forward the brokenness of their parents.

What if I told you it didn’t have to be this way? Because of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and reign, a new and living way of redemptive parenting has opened up that can set us free from the broken patterns of the past. We can’t become perfect parents, but we can become parents of extraordinary grace.

It begins by our making the conscious choice to heed the fourth commandment (the first one connected with a promise).

“Honor your father and mother . . .”

“But,” you say, “my parents dishonored me, so why should I honor them? They did not parent in a way worthy of honor.” The decision to honor your parents is not about them, but you, not about their worthiness but your obedience. Why?

“. . . so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

Just as honoring one’s parents is about you, so does the outcome accrue to you. The corollary must also be true. We could expect our failure to honor our parents to result in it neither going well for us nor enjoying long life on the earth.

So why are we focusing so much on parents when the text is aimed at children? Note how the text also addresses parenting.

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

So often, a quiet anger churns within parents against their own parents and the way they were parented. It results in the resolve to do it differently, which so often leads to the pendulum swinging in the other direction, creating an opposite, if not equal, error. Rather than an exercise in child-rearing, it becomes a misdirected expression of parental retaliation. Children caught in this crossfire grow up in a culture of anxiety and anger somewhere between exasperation and exhaustion.

So what’s a parent to do? Forgive your own parents. They did their best, but they too were carrying the burdens of the broken generations before them. Forgiveness breaks the cycle of intergenerational sin, preparing the way for brokenness to become blessedness. Only Jesus can heal our wounds.

When we sow forgiveness into the generation before us, we reap grace in the generation behind us. Extraordinary parents are made at the cross. And the good news—it’s never too late to become one.

The Prayer

Abba Father, we thank you for your Son, Jesus, who shows us what it truly looks like to honor parents. Thank you for the profound example of his obedience to you in all things. Give us grace to let past hurts go that our future might be healed. Teach us the way of extraordinary grace. In Jesus’ name, amen.

The Questions

How do you understand the nature of the promise connected to the commandment to honor one’s parents?

Have you carried brokenness and bitterness toward your parents? How has this impacted your own parenting and children?

What unfinished business might you have with your own parents (even if they are deceased) that you need to deal with? What are you waiting for?