Several of us have gathered for weeks now participating in the parenting series “Loving Our Kids On Purpose.” Almost immediately, it became obvious that “parenting” is just the context of the lessons. The content is actually about our primary relationship with God, which covenant shapes the direction and health of every other relationship we share in this life – spouse, friend, sibling, colleague, and yes, parent to child.
After viewing a short video each week, we engage in a facilitated conversation about our impressions and share personal anecdotes that relate to that week’s lesson. There were two weeks that we didn’t meet, because of Easter and then Spring Break. As fulfilling and refreshing as the other activities were that filled those two weeks, everyone admitted to really missing our time together. As with any kind of intentional group meeting, the tone of our “serious” conversations can range from dry scientific information to painful and tearful admissions and swing back to side-splitting laughter at us or the circumstances. In our first session back since the break, the tone was decidedly raw and compelling.
The topic of the evening centered on enhancing our connection with our children. Over and over again, the lesson focused on the importance of deciding what will be our primary goal for our relationship with our children. If our primary goal is to help them get a soccer scholarship to college, then everything else is secondary to that goal, including giving the child the skills to recover after failing at something or the poise to believe that whether she is tall or short or can’t kick a can across the street, she is a beloved treasure. At the heart of the discussion, however, was whether our wrong choices put distance between us and God or whether we stay so connected to God that, even with our wrong choices God’s “eye” constantly draws us back into fellowship and inspires us to repair the damage we have done.
In our relationship with God, there is freedom even after failure. And the irony is that this freedom doesn’t encourage us to continue making poor choices, but rather the freedom encourages us to “begin again”, as Benedict says, and choose more wisely.
It is often easier to approach our parenting with this new attitude, however, than it is to approach our relationship with God this way. Too often, we say one thing about God, but act as though something else were the case. We act as though the most important thing to God is that we are “good” when the truth is that the most important thing to God is fellowship with us.
When we are able to put relationship at the heart of our connections with each other, we become the light of Christ. Every other goal is truly secondary to the goal of making that heart-to-heart connection.