Parenting Is Like Jazz

God’s method of parenting doesn’t lend itself to tightly scripted formulas, “If you do x and y, then z will result.” It is more like playing jazz than working off a score.

Watch God with his children and you’ll quickly learn you can have the same issue as another of his kids, and yet he’ll approach you both differently. Or think back over your life and you’ll realize he varies his approach with you over time depending on how you’ve grown. In other words, God’s method of parenting doesn’t lend itself to tightly scripted formulas—“If you do x and y, then z will result.” It is more like playing jazz (I’m told!) than working off a score.

Have you ever looked at your child and been completely bewildered about what to do next?

They won’t stop crying. They refuse to eat their carrots. They keep getting out of bed. They pick friends who are bad for them. They take money out of your purse. They won’t apologize.

You’ve been over and over this ground with them, but here you are again. You stand there, looking at them, barely holding on to your temper, wondering, What do I do now? What do I say? What don’t I say? What discipline do I impose? Will anything make a difference? To date nothing seems to have worked. You’re out of ideas, and you really would do anything, if only you knew what.

You’re not alone. I regularly get asked, “What’s the right thing to do with my child who is ruining his life by ________?” It doesn’t seem to matter how old the child is—several months to several decades—parents still ask. There’s something inside of us that wants certainty, some clear path forward with our children, maybe a flowchart with multiple branches detailing the many if-thens of what we should do based on what they’re doing.

But the Bible doesn’t give you anything like that. It’s not organized according to parenting issues you encounter with your child. It doesn’t even have a parenting section you can skim through.

Ultimate Parent

Instead, it offers you something better. From cover to cover, it introduces you to the Parent who engages his children, and you get to watch him parent. You learn how he relates to them and what’s important to him in that relationship.

Every historical account, every law, every poem, every vision, every biography, every instruction, every interaction is meant to reveal this ultimate Parent to his children—to you. You see what he’s like

  • when you’re faithful and when you’re straying;
  • when you’re happy and when your heart breaks;
  • when you’re strong and when you’re frail;
  • when you’re confident and when you’re confused.

You don’t learn first and foremost how to straighten out your kid’s problem, so much as you learn how to be with someone who is struggling. You learn that God, the wise Father, approaches his kids in a variety of ways based on who they are and what’s happening in their lives. He doesn’t pretend that for every problem there’s a singular solution that’ll be the key that turns the lock.

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