The Heart of A Parent

The Heart of a Parent - Parenting Like Hannah

Photo by Valentina Storti

I really want to have a long talk with Mary and Joseph. I have to think God chose the best possible earthly parents to raise His son. Not perfect, because only Jesus was, but probably better than most. I think I may be right, as at least some of their sons (Joseph was their birth father and the adoptive father of Jesus) were leaders in the early church. (The book of James is thought to have been written by their son James.)

Unfortunately, my conversation probably won’t happen very soon (and if it does, I won’t be writing about it!). My clues to the parenting advice Mary and Joseph might give have to be gleaned from what the scriptures tell us about their actions. I went back and re-read everything I could find that mentioned either one of them. They really do have quite a few lessons to teach us about godly parenting.

1. Mary trusted in the Lord and His will for her and her unborn child from the very beginning. Immediately upon learning she would have a child, Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant…May it be to me as you have said.” She was willing to serve the Lord and raise her unborn child dedicated to the Lord. She had no idea all that was in her future raising this child, but her trust was in the Lord from the very beginning.

Have you thought about the plans the Lord has for your child? Are you committed to dedicating him to the Lord and helping him find God’s path for him? Do you view all of your decisions regarding your child through the lens Mary used? She knew God had a plan for her and her child and she was willing to follow that path in faith and trust. Do you trust God to show you the path for you and your child? Have you talked with God in frequent prayer asking Him what His plans for your child are? I am sure Mary did that more than just this once.

2. Mary realized her child was a precious gift. I know he was the son of God, but I imagine she felt this way about all of her children. Mary praised God soon after she was told she was going to have a child. She realized that giving birth to a child was a special blessing from God. He was entrusting her to raise this new person to be obedient to Him. She expressed her gratitude immediately for His blessing.

In a world saturated with negative news, I think we are starting to forget to be grateful for the many blessings we do have. Remembering your initial excitement when you found out you were pregnant might just help you through those tough parenting days. Children truly are a blessing and being grateful for them not only helps us parent better but sets a great example for our children. Include prayers of thanksgiving in your family prayers. Thank God for your blessings before you start asking Him for things.

3. Joseph was an involved and thoughtful father from the very beginning. Joseph never seems to get as much attention as Mary, but in my book, he was one great Dad (and husband!). He was in a situation that was probably mortifying in his society. I am sure the gossips’ tongues were wagging like crazy. He was man enough to not only ignore the gossips, but to follow God’s plan for his family. He even must have had to put his family business on hold while he took his family to Egypt for safety. Mary and Jesus were important to him and he did whatever it took to keep them safe.

Are you willing to stand up to “parental peer pressure” and do what is best spiritually for your family? Can you miss activities and bravely tell others the reason is because worshipping God is your number one priority? Do you make teaching your child about God your most important family goal? Are you willing to sacrifice promotions at work to give your family the time and attention they need to be spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically healthy and safe?

4. Mary and Joseph made God a priority for their family. Not only were they following what must have seemed like a very crazy path that God was laying for them, they kept following God’s “normal” rules. They made sure that Jesus was circumcised and then presented at the Temple for purification according to the Laws of Moses. Since they took Jesus to the Temple for the Feast, it seems they were following the laws regarding going to Jerusalem to celebrate certain Feasts. They also made sure Jesus had training in the scriptures, as the Bible lets us know that Jesus was capable of holding His own in conversations with religious leaders. The Bible also says Jesus grew”in favor with God and man”, implying He was experiencing spiritual as well as physical growth.

Are you a “Sunday morning Christian” or is being a Christian just who you are all of the time? Are you a person of integrity in God’s eyes or do you tell “little white lies” or “fudge things” a little from time to time? Do you consider God’s laws negotiable or do try to incorporate them into your life and the lives of your children? Do you study the Bible with your child and teach her God’s principles throughout the day as you are going through your activities?

Training your child “in the way He should go” is a 24 hour a day, seven days a week job. The world (Satan) is doing everything it can to undermine any Godly training your child receives. Are you trying hard enough to give your child a rock solid spiritual foundation or are you depending on others to do that for you? I have always said that if I have to answer to God for the spiritual training I gave my child, I want to have done everything humanly possible to make sure she had a good strong foundation before I launched her.

5. Mary tried to get her children involved in helping other people solve their problems. At the wedding in Cana, it is somewhat unclear why Mary knew Jesus could turn the water to wine. She did somehow know he could “save” the wedding and the host’s embarrassment by creating more wine. She pushed Jesus into performing what is His first known public miracle. I think it is interesting Jesus said it wasn’t His time yet, but then launched His ministry at her urging by turning the water into wine.

I don’t think Mary was the first “Tiger Mom”. I think she was aware God had a plan for Jesus and that He had been gifted by God to help others through miracles. She wasn’t living her life through Him or trying to get Him to do things He hated and was not prepared to do. She was merely encouraging Him to step out and begin the life God had in mind for Him.

Have you let your child experiment in different areas and find the gifts God has given her? Do you encourage rather than push when he is nervous about continuing on the path God has for him? Sometimes if you take a step back, it is amazing how much your child will soar. At times though, he will still need your encouragement that you do still see God working in his life. He may need you at times to help him find God’s path for him in his own life.

Just remember, it is your child’s path, not yours. That path may look very different from what you had hoped or imagined. With prayer and God’s guidance though, it will be the very special path God has laid for your child. I get excited just thinking about the blessings and work God has in store for our daughter in the future. I can’t decide what those are though. God is much wiser and will make a better path for her than I ever could.

6. Even when she wasn’t exactly sure what was happening and what was the best thing to do, Mary was supporting her child with all of her strength. I can’t even begin to imagine what must have been going through Mary’s mind at the Crucifixion. I do know that her love for her son was not going to keep her away. She was not hiding in the shadows either, but close enough for Jesus to tell her from the cross that he wanted the Apostle John to take care of her. Scholars aren’t in agreement if Mary, the mother of James who went to the tomb was Mary, the mother of Jesus (now known by possibly her now oldest living son). I tend to think it was her. She seems to be the type of mother who was going to make sure Jesus was well cared for even in death.

It seems natural for a mother to be there for her child.  When times are really tough though, let’s be honest. There is a little piece in everyone that may just want to run away and not be responsible for anyone. There are times when parenting is down right scary. The good parent is always there though, praying. A parent will be there even if there is nothing else that can be done.

7. Mary kept her faith in God no matter the craziness around her. I cannot imagine how exhausted and confused Mary must have been after the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. Yet she is mentioned by name as one of the people who were praying to God and waiting for whatever was going to happen at Pentecost. Her faith in God and obedience to Him seemed a constant in her life. I am sure she had a lot of questions for God over the years, but she still took them to God in prayer.

Are you covering your child and your family with prayer? Do you wait for God to show you the next step or do you just do what you want to do? Is God the basic foundation of everything you do? Are you actively training your child to do the same?

8. I have to admit, my favorite parenting advice from Mary and Joseph is the phrase “she treasured these things in her heart”. It always makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I think Mary’s eyes lit up when her children walked in the room. I think she gave them her full attention when they had something to tell her that was vitally important to them. (Even when she might have thought it was silly or childish.) I think she thought of her children as a blessing and not a burden that was keeping her from living her fulfilled life.

I believe she was a mother who truly loved her children and made raising and training them a major priority in her life.  She seemed to find the joy in being a parent and treasured all of the wonderful memories she had with her children. She never lost sight of the fact that Jesus was God’s son. Yet, I imagine she had the same free choice given to her as every other parent on earth. She chose though to dedicate herself and her child to the Lord. If we can start there, I think we will be well on our way to being the godly parents God wants our children to have.

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Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (Deuteronomy 11:18-19 NIV)