Let’s play a word association game: When I say “enemies to parenting”, what images come to mind?
High school druggies?
Vixens in crop tops?
As I’m finding with many things in life, the obvious offenders aren’t always the most dangerous. Another danger exists that is an insidious threat and has chased more youngsters away from life-giving faith than any pot-head ever has. What is that danger?
Our tendency to parent with the fear of man.
Our friends, extended families and church families are not the enemies – to varying degrees, they were designed to be a source of support and encouragement in our parenting journey. But our concern over their opinion of us and our fear of disappointing them can become an enemy that chokes the faith and joy we desire to nurture in our children’s hearts.
How can I tell if I parent with the fear of man?
- Do I limit reasonable freedoms for my children to comply with the popular opinions of groups I am involved with, even if I don’t particularly disagree with those things?
- Do I require a reluctant child’s participation in optional events simply because others expect them to participate?
- Do I employ harsh & hidden tactics to verbally or visually stifle a child in public to avoid any hint of parenting imperfection?
- Do I ever use our family’s reputation as a motivation for my children to behave the way I want them to?
- Do I establish boundaries and life loads for my children based on biblical principles of stewarding their specific personhood for God’s glory and future commendation, or do I establish boundaries and life loads for my children based on traditions and expectations that work for my glory and broadest immediate approval?
I’ve come to learn that if I do anything, big or small to secure a favourable parenting reputation in the present that will likely produce negative outcomes in the future, I parent with the fear of man.
If any of us were asked, we would express a longing for our children to grow up free from the fear of man and not crippled by it like so many from our generation have been. But how can they possibly do that if it is part of the very framework by which we parent them? How can we expect them to be free when we’ve positioned ourselves to let anyone’s grubby paws meddle in our parenting?
If you struggle with this tendency, I invite you to read on. What follows is the first official blog post I ever wrote which happens to be about overcoming the fear of man in our lives. I offer it to you in hopes that yet another woman and her babies can join the ranks of the happy untouchables.
“The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.”
As a boy, when my dad wasn’t in a fistfight, terrorizing his mother or hustling the neighbours for spare change to buy Band-Aids for his brother who had supposedly, been “mauled by a bear”…
He was hunting.
The tools of the trade were Beagles, rifles and snares. Oh my. Unlike a clumsy Looney-Toon trap that any critter has enough sense to avoid, a snare is an almost invisible little noose positioned strategically along a familiar path that will trap and strangle its victim. If you are compassionate or squeamish, it might take you a minute to get over the hunting analogy, but I trust you can appreciate the brilliance of the symbolism.
This verse vividly warns us that the minute we live based on what people think of us, we are that unsuspecting rabbit hopping down a snare-laden trail. We live at risk of being captured and strangled at any moment.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve felt the choke hold too many times.
Worried about what my high school volleyball team would think if I stood against their dishonesty, I perpetuated the lie to our coach that we had indeed run our full warm-up mile and not just the half-mile we had actually run.
Trapped in a lie.
Wanting to impress my friends by being a domestic empress of a designer culinary realm, I can wallow in discontentment over my beech-coloured, builder-grade, kitchen cabinets and laminate countertop.
Entangled in envy and ingratitude.
Wanting desperately to look like I’m doing a good job at this parenting thing, I’ve parented my daughters in ways that salvaged my reputation in the moment but did not benefit, grow or shepherd their tender hearts.
Ensnared by pride and the resulting self-centered, externally-focused, graceless parenting.
Living life in fear of the opinions of people (whose estimations ultimately won’t matter at the end of my life, by the way), is a dangerous road to walk. It has the potential to choke my spiritual vitality, joy and fruitfulness. Have you felt it?
Now for the good news. God doesn’t just give us instructions on how to step over these traps. He gives us an alternative place to live if we will choose it.
“Whoever trusts in the Lord is safe…” is how the rest of the verse reads. That means that when we will live before God with a “reverent submission that leads to obedience”, as Edward Welch explains this phrase, we will be safe.
But oh, we’re so much more than just safe. The original word for safe means: “To be set securely and inaccessibly on high.”
In a word…Untouchable.
A few years ago, we enjoyed a perfect illustration of this. At first, I was frustrated that my girls kept littering our front porch with grasses and twigs. But after each daughter assured me it wasn’t her making the mess, I clued in and looked up. There, high within our covered front portico, robins were busy building a nest on our second story window ledge.
Clever, because baby robins have a pretty high mortality rate. About 80%. Bummer. So here, these smart winged parents built their nest “securely and inaccessibly on high” where their little ones would be untouchable. No cats, squirrels or raccoons were having those eggs for breakfast. These bright birds didn’t even have to worry about rain, hail or wind as they guarded those eggs and then nurtured those naked, wide-mouthed squawkers.
What beautiful imagery this verse provides for us. That, my friend, is a picture of the security and peace we enjoy when we live with a holy disregard for the opinions of man and instead, trust, believe and act on what God says about:
And everything else.
If we will do that, God lifts us away from all those snares and places us so high above it all that we are untouchable by the opinions of people – they actually fade away in glorious irrelevance. The choice is ours: Snared or safe? So how ’bout we get our Bibles out, listen only to what God says about the stuff of life and join the ranks of the untouchables? I hope you will.
And the view is incredible.
If you want to see those safe little robins hatching, click the link!