I want to write a little bit about access. This is a spiritual concept that has massive applications to parenting. I’ll admit, I’m not feeling quite as inspired as I was last week. Good thing there’s no lack in Christ! Hopefully this post will still bless all of you. 🙂
This will be at least partially derived from a sermon that I gave last week at Life Assembly of God in St Cloud, MN. If interested, you can find that sermon here (it was from 4/30/17).
God Doesn’t Hold Himself Back
God has made you a son. That is, if you are in Christ– i.e. a follower of Christ, a believer, saved, redeemed. Whatever you want to call it; he’s made you a son.
You, my friend, are IN the family of God. Let’s just break that down a little bit here.
John 1:12 says, “to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”
You have the RIGHT to be God’s beloved child. He has grafted you in, adopted you into the family, signed on the dotted line and you belong to him forever. No going back. Like all good adoptive parents, he doesn’t make you feel bad that you’re adopted rather than a natural son. He accepts you as a full-fledged son. This gives you certain rights and privileges. Such as…
“Since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus,…let us draw near to God with sincere hearts and the full assurance that faith brings.” Heb 10:19, 22a.
That’s that Most Holy Place from the Old Testament where the very presence of God lived. When Jesus died, the veil that separated the Most Holy Place from the rest of the temple was ripped in half–there is no longer any separation between us and God! And now, as full-fledged sons of God, we get to (metaphorically) enter that Most Holy Place with CONFIDENCE! What?! God is saying, “Come and be with me! Just be. I want you; I chose you. I am all around you; I am closer than your next breath.”
“In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his PLEASURE and WILL…” Eph. 1:5 (emphasis added)
He delights in you every second of every day. He enjoys you.
There is no lack in your access to him. You get to have as much as you want, not because you’ve earned it, but because he just loves you so much and he wants to give it to you. He wants to. Hold onto that thought.
Applying This to Our Parenting
If God calls himself our Father–he’s our perfect parent–the very essence of what good parenting is, then what can we learn from his thoughts on access?
I believe that this is at the very heart of what it means to be a parent. I have the unparalleled privilege of allowing this child to take part in my life–to be of me–to live as one made in my image. I get to pour my love onto him unabashedly. Without measure. Without restraint.
And without being concerned that I’m going to “burn out”. I’m not worried that I won’t have enough emotional energy left for my husband; God has, so far, given me two people to encircle as the closest family, and I will encircle them without fear. God provides all the love I could possibly need. Surely there is enough love coming from my heavenly Father for me to pour out love onto my boys without running out.
I always have more inside me to give away than I think…because the Holy Spirit is inside me! There is no lack in how much love, affection, attention, energy, etc. I can give to my family, so I will give them no lack in access to me.
The Research Agrees
As it turns out, the secular research on parenting styles agrees with this. I wish I could cite specific studies for you right now (I’ll work on adding some later), but the summary is this:
The more affection we give our kids, the better they turn out. The closer we keep them when they’re little, the more secure they’ll feel when they’re big.
The more accepting I am of my child, the more secure he’ll be in my love. The more secure he is in my love, the easier it will be for him to trust people in adulthood, including God. The more he can trust people, the healthier his relationships will be.
Parenting is a marathon. Not a sprint. We must begin with the end in mind if we are to be successful. Don’t misunderstand: I’m not saying that we need to hold back of ourselves today to reserve some for tomorrow–the Lord gives us what we need each and every morning. But I am saying that we should make parenting decisions based on the kind of adult we want to end up with, not the kind of 5-year-old we want to have today. Adults who can function easily and confidently in the world and with the Lord are happy people. They are quick to forgive and slow to get angry. They are tolerant and yet firm in their beliefs. They are enjoyed.
Enjoying my child today will help him to become an enjoyable adult tomorrow.
Before I give a few examples of how this philosophy looks in my life, let me say a few words about balance. You could read this post and think I’m saying that parents shouldn’t spend any time or energy taking care of themselves. I’m not. Self-care is an important aspect of balanced, healthy living. I give my child free access to me and my life, but we still have date nights, I take a bit of alone time some days, I write when I can. I’m not saying that our world should revolve around our children, I’m saying that our children should get to experience our world with us. Much in the same way that a spouse does.
This idea can manifest in countless glorious ways; here are some examples of how it plays out in our lives:
~When I go to the grocery store, I don’t “manage” him; I throw him in a sling and talk to him about what I’m doing.
~When he fusses, even if I’m busy, I try to always acknowledge his experience at least with a comment.
~He spends his days with his parents.
~We nurse…whenever he wants, for as long as he wants.
~We have our discussions in front of him (as long as they are controlled and loving).
When he’s older we plan to:
~Answer all his questions, even when we’re sick of them.
~Tell him the truth, even when it’s embarrassing.
~Include him in adult life, as much as he wants. For us this means that he will know how much money we make, how we do our budgeting, how to do taxes, how we plan our vacations, how we feel about things, how we think. Anything he wants to know about us, we’ll share with him.
~Tell him about our pasts. Tell him stories of when we were younger, even the not-so-great ones.
~Give him all the attention we can. And if he’s acting out “just to get attention”, we’ll find ways to give him more positive attention, even if it means one or both of us gets set back in our careers to do it. He is worth it.
I could think of examples all day, but I think you get the point. My children get to be enveloped into the family with all the intimacy, love, authenticity, and access that we can give them. I believe that scripture and research both agree: parenting is best done when there is no lack in access.