Principle: If you are not resting as a parent in your identity in Christ, you will look for identity in your children.
Sometimes we may not think about it, but as Paul Tripp says, we “do it every single day.” He further says, “Your parenting is always shaped by where you look for identity.” Our parenting will reveal where we find our identity. This post will highlight some of the struggles that we as parents go through as we seek to parent our children. In fact, the struggle we experience explains why our children have a profound ability to hurt us. Think about how mad we sometimes get at our children. When was the last time our child frustrated us? Tripp says the struggle “helps you understand how your children have the ability to steal your joy and rob you of sleep.” We have all been there at some point right? These struggles are not love struggles but identity struggles. Getting hold of this idea will change us as parents and will help us in interacting with our children. Where do we as parents get our identity? Do we parent well from our identity source?
We as humans were created to be rational thinkers and interpreters. For example, our thoughts always precede our actions, or so they should. In fact, our actions and reactions are connected to who we think we are, who we think God is, and what we think about life. Tripp goes on to say, “At street level, we don’t really live based on the facts of our existence, but based on the sense that we are making out of those facts. That’s why you can have two different people in the same situation who respond very different to the same set of facts.” That is a lot to comprehend huh? But think about it for a moment. As parents our belief system or worldview is always being exposed by how we parent. In other words, how we respond in certain situations speaks volumes about our parenting and identity.
2 Peter 1:8-9 is a great reminder to us all. In this passage, Peter suggests that Christians can have an “ineffective and unfruitful” life because we have forgotten who we and what we have been given. Tripp further notes, “Sadly, I think this describes many parents. They are looking to get from their children what they have already been given in Christ, and they don’t know that they are doing it.” Though it is a natural tendency as parents to do, it is a hard thing to fight against. All of us are guilty in some fashion of identity amnesia. In fact, we can only fight against it with Christ, who is our true source of identity. Being mindful and checking ourselves against God’s word is the way we can truly stay on track with how God wired each and every one of us. And yes, we all are different and we all might respond differently to the same situation.
Practically speaking, how do we know if we are trying to find our identity in our children? Tripp offers 5 things for us to be mindful. These areas will help us as we think through any identity issues that we as parents face when parenting our children.
- Too much focus on success
- Too much concern about reputation
- Too great a desire for control
- Too much emphasis on doing rather than being
- Too much temptation to make it personal
If we are in Christ, we have everything we need, God’s presence and provision, to help us in our parenting. Because of our identity in Christ, we can rest in Him even on our worst parenting day. For parents, finding our identity in Christ helps us to reinforce that with our children. Then, as we model that for our children, though we won’t do it perfectly but we strive to, our prayer is that our children will “get it” and then model that for their children.
Are we striving to find our identity in Christ as we parent? Are we modeling that for our children as best as we can? Tripp goes on to say, “Isn’t it good to know that Jesus fully satisfies our hearts, we don’t have to ask our children to provide that satisfaction? It really is the completeness of the work of Jesus for us that frees us from coming to our parenting task needy, exhausted, and discouraged, asking our children to give us what they will never be able to give.” May we be parents that find our identity in Christ and experience His freedom to be the best parents we can be.
Information taken from the book: (Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family) by Paul David Tripp