BY: MELISSA TREVATHAN
Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from “Intentional Parenting: Autopilot is for planes” by Melissa Trevathan, Sissy Goff and David Thomas of Daystar Counseling Ministries in Nashville, Tenn. For more practical parenting help, check out their book here.
At a parenting seminar several years ago, Sissy brought a group of teenage girls for the question-and-answer segment at the end of the class. One mom in the audience asked the girls, “What is something your mom has done for you as you’ve grown up that’s kept you connected to her?” One senior in high school responded immediately. “Every morning, when I come downstairs, I see my mom reading her Bible and writing in her prayer journal. We never talked about it, but it’s had a major effect on our relationship; it’s helped me feel safe and like I could trust her.”
I spoke with this mom a few days later and told her what her daughter said. Her response was honest and unassuming. “I do that because I have to. It’s not that I choose to have a quiet time every morning because I’m trying to be a godly example for my daughter, although I do want to be that. I read my Bible and spend time praying because I’m compelled to. I don’t have a choice. Raising a child is too hard. I just can’t do it alone.”
Eugene Peterson said, “The parent’s main task is to be vulnerable in a living demonstration that adulthood is full, alive and Christian.” Being vulnerable is difficult when you’re a parent, especially a spiritual parent. You are “supposed to be” strong, together, in control. But the reality, to put it simply, is that you’re not.
At a mother/daughter conference, Sissy and I were on a panel in front of more than 1,000 women. I was asked the question, “Can you tell me the secret to making sure my child grows up to be Christ-centered and well-rounded?” I turned to the audience, smiled and said with all of the wisdom and warmth I could muster, “No.”
I can’t. But the question has intrigued me ever since. What do you hear underneath it? Do you hear the fear (“the secret” – no one has told me it so far, and I need you to)? Do you hear the need for control (“… making sure my child grows up to be….”)? Do you hear the lack of trust? (Why does “well-rounded” follow “Christ-centered”? Shouldn’t being Christ-centered be enough?) I hear those things because I’ve seen them in myself… all too often.
Our fears, the need for control, for guarantees, even for things to be like we think they should, all stifle our vulnerability. Vulnerability involves a letting go of control. It means there are no guarantees, that we’re giving up control over what we think should happen.
It is only as a Christian that I believe we can. We can let go because it is God who takes up. We can give up what we think should happen because what will happen is in His control rather than ours anyway. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him – parents and children alike – who have been called according to His purpose. (His purpose, not ours; it’s in Romans 8:28.)
So let’s go ahead and get it out in the open. You are vulnerable. Even if you’re one of the parents others see as strong, godly and together. You and I know the truth. You’re vulnerable. You’re dependent. You need God severely. And that’s exactly what your children need from you.
What do you feel when you read the words “dependent parenting?”
How would your children describe your relationship with God?
*Melissa Trevathan, MRE, is founder and executive director of Daystar Counseling Ministries in Nashville, Tenn. A graduate of Southwestern Baptist Seminary, Melissa has taught graduate courses, spoken to churches and schools across the country, and been a guest on television and radio programs throughout the US and Canada. She is the author of seven books and a video curriculum. She founded Daystar in 1985 after working as a youth director and the head of spiritual life at a school in Nashville.