“I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth”.
John the Apostle, 3 John 4
Every parent lives out quite a few different roles. I am not certain that even we all bent our minds toward the problem that we could make an exhaustive list… even if we just tried to describe the roles of the perfect parent.
Furthermore, they overlap like crazy.
Parents provide; they provide for physical well being (food, shelter, clothing, genetics, etc.). Also, parents teach. Should education fall under something they provide, or that they teach?
I don’t know and I don’t think it would be all that meaningful to try to break them down that way in any case. A complete list would certainly include provision and learning opportunities, and also some aspects of identity,
authority, physical presence, discipline, boundaries, chances to fail, blessings, etc.
However, I do think that people other than our parents can offer some of these as well.
Consider that we are very comfortable with others teaching us other than our parents. It may be up to a fire fighter to protect us some of the time. I think to the degree that someone gives us parental “things”, they become like a parent to us.
In cases when a biological parent fails to offer that which we need from them, we can become pretty crippled; what a gift it is when someone else steps in and gifts us with them!
And God knows how sadly common this is.
Obviously, the act of adoption is the most complete way of taking on these roles with someone who is not your biological child. Step-parenting could be another powerful way of living this out that I think is often overlooked. Most teachers, coaches, ministers, nurses, and many others are going to experience this truth a good deal.
At the same time, any person who gives these kinds of things are taken on by another becomes something of a spiritual parent. The more that are given, the more the role is clear, and honestly, the nearer to it comes to an adoption relationship!
There is much that we need to hear from our parents.
When someone else steps in and speaks these things into us, it makes a big difference. When we need to hear the truth from someone, and it comes from someone we can trust, it can change us. We may even find ourselves fighting and resisting it, but sometimes we can still feel it changing, freeing, and strengthening us!
The Truth sets us free.
People who can speak this into our lives through their words and deeds communicate freedom to us as a parent can/could/should.
In doing so, they are allowing themselves to give us the gift of being some level of a spiritual parent. It makes sense, then, that in the history of the church, it has been common to refer to teachers and leaders in paternal or maternal language – Father Mulcahy, or Mother Theresa, etc. Paul notes that he was “exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children , so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.” (1 Thess 2:11-12, NASU)
Among their roles is to introduce us to the Truth, and in a sense, convince us to see that it is the truth!
Of course, it is Christ who is the truth, and that brings me to one of the most important points of all.
The most important role of a parent is to be a living model of God in the life of their child.
More on this Next Time…