Parenting from the Bible part 1
January starts us off in the Old Testament: We are kicking it off with Genesis chapters 1-5.
So many things in these chapters relate to parenting! I love it so much!
Let's just jump right in!
Genesis 1 begins with God creating a home for his children- us. He provided a beautiful safe home for us where his love was abundant.
We as parents can do this! No matter the size or price tag of the house we live in, we can provide a safe place for our children where our love is abundant!
In chapter 2 the creation is complete, and Adam and Eve are placed in their new home. Then something so cool happens... He gives them lots of teachings, a couple commandments, some advice and bit of council, but then he provides an opportunity for Adam and Eve to choose for themselves!!!
I love how the very first thing God teaches us in the Bible is about the importance of free-agency! This is the the number one parenting lesson we can learn from this chapter! Our responsibility as parents is to provide opportunities for our children to choose for themselves. We can of course provide lots of gospel/social/intellectual teachings, but then allow room for them to choose for themselves. So often we as parents take it personally when our children choose differently from us or make mistakes. We are afraid it reflects poorly on our parenting skills. God is showing us here that the opposite it true. Allowing our children to choose for themselves is Godly Parenting. It takes more intellectual strength to respect our children's choices than it does to fix everything for them and force things to turn out the way we think it should. Doing that gives gives a false appearance of perfection, and actually teaches our children that appearing to be perfect is more important than being real. This perspective is so very damaging to the emotional/mental health of our children. And to ourselves!
Chapter 3 is where it gets real. Up to this point Adam and Eve were basically floating along, learning from God himself and enjoying a world without opposition. They were intelligent and could learn from God, and they had free-agency, but there was one problem- They lacked the knowledge that comes from experiencing something for yourself. This is where so many people get hung up on the fact that God gave them two seemingly contradicting commandments. 1. Multiply and replentish the earth (AKA have children) , and 2. Don't eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Here is where the paradox comes into play. They could easily obey the 2nd commandment, but the 1st one was not as obvious.
Before we go on, we need to stop here and insert a big piece of the puzzle: It's important that we understand the word "commandment". If we break it down into root words we first get "com" which is a prefix meaning: beside, near or with. It's used in words like "come" used as an invitation to be near or with someone. next we get the root word "man" which comes from "mankind" meaning: all "humans". Lastly we get "ment" which is a suffix meaning "an action or resulted state of what is noted". After unpacking all of that, we can see that the true definition of a commandment is: God's invitation for mankind to be with him!! With this understanding we can now understand the purpose of these two "different" commandments (invitations) to Adam and Eve.
Back to the first one: Multiply and replentish the earth. Even if their bodies were capable of having children, for whatever reason they didn't. For whatever amount of time they lived in the Garden, they never had children. We know this because if they would have had children in the garden, the story would have been very different- Mom and Dad ate the fruit and now the kids would have to decide if they would stay in the garden never to age or die, or eat the fruit to stay with mom and dad and get knowledge. That wasn't how the story went. The real story continues like this: Eve decides to eat the fruit. Then Adam decides to eat it. Emphasis on the word "decides" because we are talking about free-agency!
Enter chapter 4- The very first thing that happened (after leaving the garden and their eyes being opened to knowledge of good and evil) was..... CHILDREN! The very first verse in chapter 4 says that Eve conceived and bare a son- Cain. Boom. Something about gaining knowledge from eating the fruit opened the door for all of us to come to earth. This doctrine is SO AMAZING to me because it reveals the true nature of Adam and Eve as goodly parents who made a hard choice but they were willing to do it because they understood the plan of God included getting all of us here to this beautiful earth home they built for us!
Now that we have a deeper understanding of the word commandment as an invitation to be with God we can move on from the sticky question of why would God give Adam and Eve two contradicting commandments. Instead we can see that a loving God gave them two INVITATIONS to be with him. One invitation was to be with him quite literally in his presence in the Garden of Eden. The other invitation was to be with him in purpose... like "who's with me?" If God's work and Glory is to bring to pass the eternal life and immortality of man(kind). Then Adam and Eve could begin to see the beauty in progressing from one invitation to the other. They were able to fulfill both commandments (invitations), just not at the same time. SO COOL!
Life as they knew had just changed forever. Anyone who has become a parent can relate to that! They now live in a world of opposition and they are feeling pain and sorrow for the first time. But because of the pain, they also now can experience true joy! Again, parents... can you relate?
What happens next is heartbreaking. Their first born son, Cain exercises his free agency to kill his brother. I can not even begin to imagine the trauma Adam and Eve were facing. What happens next is a GOLDEN PRINCIPLE of Parenting taught to us by God. In Chapter 4 versus 9-16 we learn the depth of the love of God, even for Cain, a killer. After Cain kills his brother the Lord comes to Cain to have a conversation. Wait, what? Aren't we taught that if we sin we are cut off from the presence of God? And yet here, Cain has just committed the biggest sin and yet God still comes to him? To talk? Yes! What this teaches us about Heavenly parenting is so profound. We do not leave our children, cut them off or stop talking to them when they sin. As we keep reading into verse 19 we see that it was Cain who left God. Um. That changes EVERYTHING! Parents, listen up. Even when our kids fail miserably at doing the right thing and we can not even comprehend why they are making the choices they are making...including deeply sinning against God... WE STAY WITH THEM and love them with everything we have. Of course consequences will follow just as Cain received a consequence but the consequence we prescribe should never be withholding love. If they choose to reject our love that is up to them, (just as Cain did) but God has clearly just taught us that there is nothing our kids could ever do to justify us withholding love! Love is free, with no requirement. That is Godly Love. That is Godly Parenting. Since we are clearly not even close to being perfect like God, we are going to call our human version of this "goodly parenting" allowing for our own errors and space to repent and improve ourselves.
So, to recap, here is what we have learned from our Heavenly Parents in Genesis so far...
GOODLY PARENTING PRINCIPLES:
#1 : WE CAN PROVIDING A SAFE LOVING HOME!
#2 : WE CAN RESPECT OUR CHILDREN"S FREE AGENCY TO CHOOSE FOR THEMSELVES!
#3 : WE CAN LOVE OUR CHILDREN IN ALL OF THEIR CHOICES AND CONSEQUENCES; THE GOOD AND THE BAD.
Parents, let go of your image of perfectionism. Be careful not to transfer accountability of your kids bad choices onto yourself. Get used to different! Get used to things being messy and imperfect, because that is where our kids gain knowledge for themselves through their own experiences. Don't take that away from them.
If you remember one thing from any of this, make sure it's understanding that there is no such thing as earning love. Trust is earned, Benefits are earned, but not Love. Love is free. ❤️ Love your wayward children like God loved Cain. God was disappointed and heartbroken at Cain's choice, and gave him a consequence for his actions. But he never stopped loving him. ❤️ God loves sinners (lucky for us) and we can learn from his example and offer our love to our children in the way that he has shown us!
Let's move our parenting in this direction. Goodly Parenting is striving to follow the pattern of parenting set forth by our Heavenly Parents. Look for their example in the scriptures when you study. Pray for God to show it to you! It's in there!!