Imaging the Father
As I was speaking in British Columbia this past weekend, I had the privilege of sharing one of my favorite speeches, entitled “Cross-Eyed Parenting.” The substance of the speech is that we parents are the top bowl of a three-tiered fountain, as pictured right. If our dreams for homeschooling to the glory of God are to come true, we simply must make time for devotional lives that fill our bowls to overflowing with a humble, gracious, demeanor, where the cross of Christ–with all it’s power, love, mercy, and grace–fills our gaze. Thus do we become cross-eyed parents in both senses of the term: we are flawed creatures (sin has made our vision crippled) but keeping His cross in view changes us to gracious parents who raise world changers to the glory of God.
The means that I suggest for cultivating rich quiet times is a daily preaching of the gospel to ourselves. Thus do we meditate on the three main elements of the Good News:
- The holiness of God–and that we both serve Him and rely on His power to do good.
- The sinfulness of sin–we are fallen and broken, and totally undeserving of any good from Him.
- The amazing nature of grace–He loves us despite our fallen, broken, sinful natures. He extends mercy and grace to us daily, and turns all of our defeats to victories!
Having thus filled our top bowls, we can overflow to our children, and fill our families with grace. A family that includes sanctified, unified, and growing people who delight in the grace of God and extend it willing to others will then overflow to give love, refreshment, and the Good News to a sin-sick world.
One of the ways that we parent with our eyes on His cross is to present an authentic image of the Father to our children. My husband, Scott, was a master at keeping his eye out for opportunities to image God’s character to our children. This past weekend, I shared two stories that illustrate the opportunity that cross-eyed parents have of putting the gospel on full display.
They are, of course, told by permission.
Story #1: David and the Taz Flash
Our son, David (age 5-6), went over to his best friend, Lincoln’s, house one day to play. While there, he saw and coveted an action figure: a bright, compelling Taz Flash (photocredit). By day’s end, he had stolen Taz Flash from Lincoln’s house. Then, he hid Taz in a sock under his pillow for a few days, taking it out to play with it from time to time.
All the while, though he was eaten up by guilt, he was also afraid to confess his sin to his parents because David knew that he had broken several of the Ten Commandments in this matter. In our family, there were pretty severe physical consequences awaiting those who broke said commandments, which David well knew. However, by God’s grace, David’s guilt was stronger than his fear of his father, and finally, he approached Scott to confess his sins.
What happened next surprised David, and he has never forgotten it. Scott did not punish David after he confessed. Scott forgave him, and told him the reason why. While Scott was responsible to administer justice and train David through appropriate punishments, and while it would be just to punish David for his grievous sins, Scott wanted David to know that Father God’s heart towards His children is a merciful One. He, Scott, was an undeserving sinner. He, Scott had been forgiven many grievous sins because of the death of Jesus, God’s own Son. And now he, Scott, extended a father’s forgiveness to his son, because the Bible teaches that, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9 (ESV). David was amazed by grace that day, and the image of Father God that was imprinted on his young soul was a lasting one!
In this case, it was a lack of wisdom. Mike had a brand new slingshot when he was about 7 years old, and he wanted to do target shooting. So, he set up some cans on some boots in the 22′ long mudroom of our New Hampshire home, right in front of the 4′ X 8′ Thermopane window. Yep; the shot missed and shattered the window. The repair cost $80.00, and all Mike had was a weekly allowance of $1.00 that could be used to pay it back.
In our family, we had a lot of kids, so money had to stretch. Our kids weren’t given many treats beyond what they saved up for out of their allowances. We felt like our kids needed to learn about consequences, as well. So, for 20 weeks of that fall season, week after week, Scott would hand Mike his allowance, and Mike would hand it back to Scott in payment for his window debt. He did it manfully and cheerfully, but it did cost him.
Then, Christmas morning came, and we were opening stockings. In Mike’s, there was an envelope. It was the bill for the window, which was marked “Paid in Full” and pictured a cross below this marking. Mike looked at his dad, astonished. Scott told him that he, Mike’s father, had paid the debt, and he told him why.
He began by reminding Mike that this was Jesus’ birthday. It was the day when Christ left Heaven for our sakes to take on human flesh. He then said something like this: “Mike, I’m a sinner. I have never deserved any mercy. But, God sent Jesus to be born in a manger, and then to die on the cross, in order to pay the debt that I could never have paid. My debt was far greater than yours was, Son. So, it cost God more than my payment of your debt has. But on this, Christ’s birthday, be released from your debt and rejoice, Mike! And never forget what God has done for us sinners.”
The overflowing fountain!
David never forgot that mercy. Mike never forgot that cancellation. These weren’t the only opportunities Scott took to communicate God’s image to our children, but they stand out in our family culture as some of the richest. Both of these now-grown and married men are purposefully passing on the image of Father God to their children.
And note: these family stories are still being told. They are now overflowing our own family and going out to many; they are still impacting readers like yourself and listeners to our speeches, who then imitate them in situations unique to their own families as God gives opportunities to cross-eyed parents. Who would have known that one father’s faithfulness could overflow so widely and so impact the fountain of human events?
Prov 13:14 (ESV)