The trouble with having a blog about motherhood is that you’ve got to be a mother, and being a mother doesn’t give you much time to write on a blog. So please bear with me when I’m gone for a few weeks! I’m afraid you might not like this blog post much! I was really challenged by a sermon last week and I’ve tried to articulate it here. Read it if you dare!
I read an article a while back about HIP parenting. No, it doesn’t mean you listen to Pharrell while you spoon feed – HIP stands for High Investment Parenting. This is when the family life revolves around the child’s or children’s education and extra-curricular life. You can probably think of a few problems this may cause, as could the writer Anna Maxted: ‘Middle-class parents intent on giving their kids the childhood they never had may be putting their families at risk.’ But in the UK, and I suspect many other societies, this has become very normal. And if someone looked at my family, would they see HIP parents? Do our lives revolve around our children? And if so, is that wrong?
Jesus could have been anything he’d wanted to be. You think your child has potential? How good do you think Jesus was at carpentry? Public speaking? Hebrew? He could have ruled the world if he’d wanted to. That’s what Satan told him in the wilderness (Matt 4:8-9), and that’s what Peter tried to tell him in Mark 8, when Jesus told the disciples that he needed to die and rise again. This plan seemed like madness to Peter, but Jesus could see the bigger picture.
Being a king on earth wasn’t enough – Jesus was building the eternal, perfect Kingdom. He had chosen to suffer and die to rescue countless believers, bringing them into the Kingdom to worship God forever in the new creation.
Usually I am in the habit of seeing life a bit like Peter did in Mark 8 – meaning I see the here and now, and I want it to be brilliant. I want to enjoy myself; I want to triumph over my daily tasks; I want glory in this life. But that’s because my view of life, and God, are too small.
After Peter had rebuked Jesus for predicting his death, here’s what Jesus said, not just to his disciples but also to the crowds:
‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.’ (8:34-35)
Jesus denied himself many things: a glittering career; fame and fortune; a throne; even his own life. But for what? For the gospel. So it seems to be that if I want to be Jesus’ disciple, then I need to deny myself and take up my cross. I don’t know exactly what that will mean, but I think it would be a good start if I set aside my own sinful desires every single day, and asked the Holy Spirit to show me how to follow Jesus instead.
As parents we deny ourselves many things: sleep; expensive luxuries; personal space; sometimes a successful career; adult conversation; a clean and tidy home. But for what? Well, we could do all that and still not be denying ourselves in the way Jesus means it here. If we’re doing it just for our children, then we’re not living as disciples of Jesus. Our ultimate goal should always be for God to get the glory. That’s a challenge, isn’t it?
And how should this affect the way I treat my children? What about their potential? What if they’re extremely gifted at football, or reading, or gymnastics, or the flute? Wouldn’t I be a terrible mother if I didn’t put as much energy and resources I could into making sure they realise that potential? Well, let’s see what Jesus says:
What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.’ (8:36-38)
My fear should not be that my son will miss out on a football career and I’ll be to blame. It shouldn’t be that my daughter could win X Factor but will never know because I can’t afford singing lessons. My fear should be that my children gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul; that they will be ashamed of Jesus when he comes back to judge them. I need to see the bigger picture. I need to invest in their eternal lives, not just in the next 80ish years.
Please don’t read me wrong here. I’m not saying that we just lock our children in their rooms and teach them nothing but the Bible until they’re 18, ignoring their God-given talents and attributes and dismissing all other activities as worldly and wicked. But I hope you’ll agree that in our Western soccer-mum driven, extra-curricular mad, HIP parenting society we are not in much danger of neglecting our children’s gifts and talents. I believe we’re more in danger of (inadvertently) teaching our children that they need to get the most out of this life, using the skills they’ve got. Jesus didn’t do that, and he’s the pattern we’re supposed to be following.
The wonderful thing is that although Jesus says ‘deny yourself’, in the long run it’s not really denying ourselves is it? We deny ourselves here and now, but long term we gain everything. We inherit eternal life. ‘For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.’