Friday, February 13, 2009

Something Helpful from Dr. Chapell

I just stopped reading Each for the Other, a book by President of Covenant Theological Seminary, Dr. Bryan Chapell,  mid-sentence to post this for you all. I don't know how relevant it will be for some of you. This book, even for me, has been a little too "easy" so far. While I think it would have been a fabulous resource to have had during premarital counseling (nice to know that the pastor who did our premarital counseling is now divorced...), I think it has mostly been discussing things we have already worked out in our nine years of marriage, at least on a large scale (not that I don't have my specific struggles with submission from time to time, but I at least am reconciled to and striving toward that end). However, I have just entered the parenting portion of the book, and I find getting a handle on the Biblical mindset of parenting a little more challenging, if for no other reason, because there are so so so many different teachings on the matter. I mean, it is not often that you run into the popular teaching of something other than the husband being the head of the home and called to love his wife who is called to submit to her husband. But, how many different emphatic teachers have you heard or read that say all kinds of nuanced things about child rearing? Exactly. Dozens. 

One thing I have heard myself saying to people who have not been a mom as long as me (with my whopping seven years of experience!) is that the only real advice I have is to take advice very lightly as there is always a ton of it, and much of it will conflict with the rest of it. Just think of your four or five best friends in regard to the first weeks of parenting- you probably have both a baby-wiser in there and a feed-on-demander in there. I do. So that runs the gamut from feed them any time they want to keeping them on a strict schedule, and we're just talking about two week olds! Now remember (or imagine) the advice on potty training, napping, manners, sharing, spanking etc. -that's just in the first two years! Next up is reading, schooling, aaaghh! It's out of control! I mean, yes, these decisions have to be made, and your friends are, or at least should be, pretty gracious about the idea that these things are choices and vary from parent to parent and child to child (not all children of the same parents will have the same experience because each child is different even if the parents are the same!). But for every "school of thought" you will find among your friends, there is probably some kind of (or, more likely, many) emphatic, "I am the way, the truth, and the life" book insisting that everything in Creation points to their philosophy on thumb sucking (or whatever). 

But here's what Dr. Chapell says, way better than I ever could:

"The Bible's emphases show that the daily context of Christian living is the most powerful tool of child rearing, rather than a precise set of right or wrong parental behaviors. A child's nurture is not determined by a list of rules that we mysteriously divine from Scripture's relatively few statements on specific parenting practices. This conclusion flies in the face of some handbooks on Christian parenting that teach there is only one correct way to affirm or show affection or discipline. Some have even claimed biblical proof for the proper feeding times of infants. Such instructions defy the liberties of Scripture and deny the dignity of individual differences. This kind of teaching also seems to imply that children are likely to be ruined if we make a single mistake in some particular moment or aspect of a child's upbringing. This is precisely what Scripture does not attest. ....
Scripture does not require me to believe that a momentary error will wreck my children. Were I to believe it could, then I would become paralyzed for fear of doing something that would forever ruin them; or I might refuse ever to examine my parenting patterns lest I have to confess that I had warped my children by past mistakes. ... The grace that a Christian heart embraces and that a Christian's marriage should foster allows Christian parents the privilege to fail, to seek forgiveness, and to try again."  (italics for "deny the dignity of individual differences" mine because I think that is HUGE!)

Thanks, Dr. Chapell. I feel much better now. 

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