catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 4, Num 9 :: 2005.05.06 — 2005.05.19


Late night thoughts on what being a parent teaches about being God

If one has had a positive experience of being mothered or fathered, the image of God as loving parent can be comfortably used in prayer and meditation. If the childhood experience has been negative, the image of God as loving parent may still serve, in a compensatory way. But what might the experience of being a parent reveal to us about the nature of God?

I bless the day a friend of mine told me The One Rule for effective parenting: find out what your children want to explore and encourage them in it. My experience as a parent has confirmed this rule as truth. Of course, my wife and I had other, more mundane, rules—curfews, no more than one hour of television per day, allowance to be tithed both to church and to savings, eat supper as family if at all possible, and church attendance was a non-negotiable item. Discerning what a child likes means taking the time to expose him or her to a wide range of possibilities—art, music, drama, sports, travel, gardening, cooking, pets, books, movies, cities, the natural world, activism, volunteering, odd ideas, and on and on. Mercifully, our kids generally chose interests and pursuits we found easy to support. We made suggestions of activities according to what we perceived as their gifts. But, by and large, we followed The One Rule of good parenting.

Our kids, now in their twenties, seem, at the very least, not to have been damaged by our adherence to this commandment. But it has not infrequently been a demanding discipline for us to trust our children as profoundly as The One Rule suggests, even now. It means seeking to understand the children?s choices through listening, and often biting our tongues when we are tempted (and I use the word in its theological meaning) to offer our advice born of age, maturity, and wisdom (won mostly through recovering from the consequences of our own foolishness) and finally, listening again if their choices serve them poorly. Living by The One Rule means trusting our children, even to the point of keeping our fears for them to ourselves. Giving counsel only when it?s requested, and holding back when it?s not embraced, is no small labor. And we have not always been up to the task!

And I wonder, is it not so for God? Are we not blessed by God with certain gifts and, at least in some social circumstances, given the freedom to develop and use them? And does not God trust us to find our path to usefulness for the kingdom and maturity of self? So often we speak about our faith in God. But being a parent reveals the demanding work it is to have faith in one?s children. And thereby, we glimpse something of God?s faith in us as God?s children, a work costly to the divine, I believe. The fact of God?s faith in me as God?s child is startling, to say the least. More, it is an occasion for profound awe and gratitude. It might even give rise in me to greater faith in, hope in and love for my Divine Parent.

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