Our church recently started a new teaching series called “How to parent (and lead) beyond your capacity.” It’s based on a book called Parenting Beyond your Capacity by pastors and fathers Reggie Joiner and Carey Nieuwhof who study Deuteronomy 6 in depth. I am excited because I believe this series will apply to almost everyone: parents, grandparents, godparents, future-parents, and to any person who leads and influences another person. I have asked single people, who don’t have kids, to visualize that person: a younger friend, niece, nephew or cousin. I reminded them, “God put you in that person’s life to offer positive influence and guidance.”
All of this reminds me of the day I became a parent. It all started back on June 7, 2005, in Castle Rock, Colorado. My lovely wife Autumn was thirty-six weeks pregnant. At 1:30 am on a Tuesday, she awakened me and said: “I think I am in labor.” And because I’m an incredibly supportive and sensitive husband, I rolled over and went back to sleep. But a short while later Autumn shook me forcefully and declared “I am in labor, and we need to go to the hospital NOW!” We threw some clothes into a bag, and at 3:00 am sped toward Sky Ridge Medical Center in Lone Tree, Colorado.
Upon arriving in the labor and delivery room, things immediately started going wrong. The nurses struggled to get an IV into Autumn’s hand, and some blood dripped down her fingers. Then, Autumn screamed so loudly and demonstrably (I’m pretty sure it echoed off the Rocky Mountains) the attending doctor concluded she was a perfect candidate for an immediate epidural. However, they gave her too much epidural medicine, and she started to feel sedated and numb. Afterward, we discovered our son’s face was turned inward, toward Autumn’s spine, so the doctor tried to turn him but was only partially successful.
Finally, when it came time to deliver, the OBGYN burst onto the chaotic scene and ordered me to “take a leg.” I said, “Hmm, excuse me?” “Grab her left leg,” she replied. “I didn’t think I was going to be this involved in the delivery,” I thought to myself. Autumn started to push, and then our son’s heart-rate dropped dramatically: apparently he was not coming out fast enough. The OBGYN announced she had to suction him. I had no idea what that meant. She proceeded to put a plastic cap on his head, pumped it, and boom, out came Landon Carter Hoffman.
I hate to admit it, but I immediately thought “Oh no, we have a problem, he doesn’t look like me. He has black curly hair, dark brown eyes, and a cone head. That doesn’t seem quite right!” (For the record, I have blond hair and hazel eyes.)
Well, they cleaned him up, swaddled him, put a hat on his head and handed him to us. There he was. We were parents, and our world would never be the same!
Since that day, Autumn and I have been on a parenting journey. At times it feels a bit like wandering through an impossible maze. Just when you think you may be getting the hang of it, your kid changes, they grow out of diapers or become a pre-teen, and suddenly, you feel discombobulated and lost.
However, I am convinced we can grow as leaders, parents, and influencers. We can all improve and get better. To do that, I believe it’s best to look at what the Bible has to say about parenting, leadership, and influence. In particular, Deuteronomy 6 provides rich insights into parenting and leading others well. For our purposes here, I want to make two brief observations:
1) God wants what’s best for our families/relationships. Deut. 6:2 indicates God wants us to “enjoy [a] long life” and verse three says God wants our lives to “go well” and for our families to “increase greatly.”
2) Our families are called to love God completely. Deut. 6:5 commands us to “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Our families and relationships will function well when we look to God for guidance and help.
But here’s the catch. We cannot do this on our strength. Because of sin, we cannot love in the way He deserves. Our natural inclination is to place our desires before God’s plans for us. That is why the New Testament teaches we need a relationship with Jesus Christ to purify us from sin and empower us to love God wholly.
As I close let me encourage you to do a frank, family assessment. Please spend a few minutes this week answering two questions:
1) How is our family doing? Are we enjoying life? Are things going well? If you are single, ask: how are my closest relationships doing? Are they healthy?
2) Currently, where does God fit into our lives? Is he near the center? On the periphery? Off the map?
I bet we would all agree that our families can grow and improve. The key is how much we invite God into this process.