I recently came into possession of a book entitled Think Orange. It was written by Reggie Joiner, former youth pastor at Northpoint Community Church in Atlanta where Andy Stanley is senior pastor. Gene Tharp purchased a set of these books to use as a teaching tool for staff and key leaders at PCC. While reading this book I came across a section about family that really captured my attention. It was so good that I immediately started highlighting the paragraphs thinking I could pass it along.
Here is an excerpt. Read your way through it slowly. I’m certain that it will be a source of encouragement to you. It was for me.
There’s something that bothers me. A lot of Christian parenting books I have read start with the premise that there is an ideal mom or dad. These superparents conduct morning devotions, pray together every night, play contemporary Christian music, put framed verses on their walls, stay within their biblical roles as husband and wife, vote conservatively, and attend church every week where they give 10 percent of their income.
The problem is, I don’t find a lot of good parenting examples in the Bible. The Bible certainly lends advice about parenting, and there are a number of universal principles we should apply as parents, but you would have a hard time convincing me that David, Noah, or Eli was an exceptional parent.
Don’t even try to point to the Proverbs 31 woman. What was her name? Oh yeah, she didn’t have one. Adam and Eve might have been good examples had they not single-handedly caused the downfall of the human race and subsequently raised one son who killed the other.
My point is this: Parenting is hard. Families are messy. There are no clear biblical examples. Anyone who claims they have discovered the secret to effective parenting is probably covering up something, just had a baby, or recently graduated from Bible college with a degree in youth ministry.
There is a degree of dysfunction in every family. Mine was no exception. When my dad was fifteen, he ran away from home and joined the Air Force to get away from his manipulative step mom. My mother’s father and mother struggled with alcoholism and both committed suicide one year apart during her elementary years. Neither of my parents had the advantage of reading James Dobson or Gary Smalley books. They never attended a Family Life seminar. They simply got married (without any premarital counseling), had kids, and plowed their way through being a family. They only thing that kept them going was their faith in God and their love for my brother and me. As a result, their values of faith and family were effectively passed on to me.
Unfortunately, they passed along a few other things too. Traits like control issues, stubbornness, moodiness, insecurities, tendencies to manipulate, and a few others. Why? Because they were bad parents? No, because they are human parents. Human parents tend to have human issues. Human parents struggle with the humanness of their own human parents that were passed down to them.
It all started with the first mom and dad. Talk about a dysfunctional family. Adam was quick to blame Eve for causing him to fall into sin and Eve passed the buck directly to the serpent. Then one of their sons killed the other one, and it all went downhill from there.
Noah had a drinking problem.
Abraham offered his wife to another man.
Rebekah schemed with her son to deceive her husband, Isaac.
Jacob’s sons sold their brother into slavery.
David had an affair, and his son started a rebellion.
Eli lost total control of how his boys acted in church.
In comparison to the parents described in the Bible, mine were incredible. Has it ever occurred to you that maybe God filled the pages of Scripture with bad parenting examples to encourage us? When I read the variety of Christian books about parenting, they often make me feel overwhelmed and guilty. If I consider my own inherent faults and personality traits, I am not sure I have it in me to be an A-plus parent. When I read the Bible I am actually encouraged, and I am definitely aware that God has a way of doing something incredible in spite of my faults.