Shooting Arrows: Spiritual Parenting in a Soulish Age

Shooting Arrows: Spiritual Parenting in a Soulish Age

I recently happened upon an article written by Bria Sledge, a project assistant at the North Carolina State University Department of Agricultural and Human Sciences. The article asks why the role of a parent is so important to a child’s development. She writes: “Parents are not only caretakers, but they are instrumental in the development of their child’s social, emotional, cognitive and physical well-being. Oftentimes, we as individuals don’t see the significance that parents … can play in helping develop children. In essence, parents set the foundation for children’s developmental skills.”

She says that “physical development is about encouraging our children to be more active and engaged with their outside environment,” and that “social development begins with our interactions with children.” “Being social is important,” she writes, “but being emotionally social and connected is a key to psychological well-being, reducing feelings of depression, anxiety, and stress, within an emotional context.” She tells us that, “as research has shown, engaging in your child’s learning is a critical part in their cognitive development. When parents provide an environment in which children can learn and thrive, it promotes an opportunity for kids to excel in academics and/or other activities that rely on the child’s cognitive abilities.”

The Hole in Our Child’s Life

It’s certainly true that parents are more than mere caretakers and that they’re instrumental in the development of their child’s social, emotional, cognitive and physical well-being. But God’s Word tells us that there’s more to human beings than the mind, emotions and social interaction. There’s the spiritual aspect.

For unbelievers, there’s a hole where a human spirit should be – that famous ‘God-shaped’ hole that so many Christians have written about. But, for believers, that hole’s been filled. We have a newly-created human spirit and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We are, as it were, born again – born of the Spirit (John 3:3-8). The unbeliever has a deep, deep need – one that he or she doesn’t even understand they have. The believer has a provision – the ability to be filled with the knowledge of God.

Paul prays that Christ would dwell in our hearts through faith, “that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:17-19). All the fullness of God! Now, that’s what I call provision!

Moving from being lost to being found, from unbelief to faith, from the empty hole to the indwelling Spirit, is the essence of our new life in Jesus. “Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard Him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:16-18).

Ten Traits to Consider

As parents – biological or spiritual – the challenge is to help our children identify this hole and fill it with Jesus. We might call this ‘spiritual parenting,’ parenting with a mind set upon spiritual things. But parenting is not easy work, and spiritual parenting is even more challenging.

J.T. Waresake, of James Dobson’s FamilyTalk, identifies 10 traits of successful Christian parenting. Here they are:

  1. Teach them early and often when it comes to the gospel messageChildren are sponges by design. It’s essential that we pour into them the truth found in God’s Word and the amazing grace that He has bestowed upon us. Our life goal is to create and sustain a gospel-saturated house. 
  1. Instill in your children that they are “fearfully and wonderfully” made by a God and that has a special purpose for their lives. Their self-esteem is not derived from man. Rather, their self-esteem is rooted to their understanding of how much their God loves them.
  1. Be a student of your child’s heart and get to know his or her special gifts and passions—then provide the opportunities for your child to grow in these areas.There is nothing sweeter to a parent than seeing our children love God. Second to that is to see our sons and daughters glorify God with their unique giftedness. 
  1. Dedicate time each day to acknowledge God in your lives. Our faith in Jesus is foremost a relationship and not a once a week event. Allow your children to find the joy of walking with Christ every day by being in His Word together and spending time in prayer on a regular basis.
  1. Train your sons and daughters with the end goal in mind—raising them to become godly men and women. Boyhood and girlhood are not destinations in and of themselves. Rather, they are a part of a longer journey that is leading our sons and daughters into becoming men and women. This inherently means that you will treat them differently. God made them distinctly “male and female.” As parents, it’s our calling to teach, model and grow them within the boundaries of their God-ordained sex.
  1. Never let your anger drive your discipline—all disciplinary measures should be done in love. There are definite times in my life as a father that I wished I could have a “do over.” Disciplining my kids in anger is one of them. Most of the time I get this right. When I do, it’s those times my heart and mind are before God. Ultimately, any wrong my child commits is foremost a sin against God and is an opportunity to deepen their relationship with Him. My role in disciplining my children is to help them understand their sin, it’s consequence, repentance, and the joy of receiving God’s unfailing forgiveness and grace. 
  1. Allow your household to be a refuge where mercy and grace are practiced each day. Yet, be sure not to cheapen God’s grace by making little of the sins that Christ gave His life to pardon.Our children must never forget that the mercy and grace afforded to us by God is saturated with the blood of Jesus Christ.
  1. Laugh and enjoy life in a way that uplifts others and be an example of ‘being there’ when others have a need. Christ gave us the greatest example of what a true servant of God looks like—He came not to be served, but to serve and give his life for others. 
  1. Encourage children to desire and value hard work. Look for opportunities to serve others as a family—these have been some of my favorite times with my family. Teaching ownership and responsibility around one’s work is an essential ingredient for any adult.
  1. Always reinforce that our greatest life goal is to glorify God in all we do.When it’s all said and done, this is the essence of life—to glorify God with our lives.

 Good stuff – and very helpful!

 “A Vibrant and Transforming Faith”

It’s important for parents, grandparents and those who come along side parents to work with children to remember that God created Adam and Eve with a body, a soul, and a spirit. We need to nurture all three of these. And, as many of us know, the spiritual life – our walk with Jesus – is marked by freshness, joy and optimism.

In her book, Spiritual Parenting: An Awakening for Today’s Families, Michelle Anthony writes, “It was not my job to merely control my child’s behavior and by doing so somehow create a spiritual life for him or her … my goal was to pass on a vibrant and transforming faith.”

To that end, she suggests ten “environments” parents can develop around their families which to nurture spirituality.

 That Thing About Arrows

In Psalm 127:4-5, the psalmist tells us that our children are God’s blessing. They’re “like arrows in the hand of a warrior,” he says. In this illustration the children are the arrows and the parents are the ones shooting them out.

Like arrows, they’re handmade and unique, but also somewhat crooked. They need to know that, like all sinners, they’ve missed the mark (Romans 3:23), that God has provided a solution to this terrible problem through His Son Jesus (John 3:16), and that Jesus is the only Savior, He alone can forgive them (Acts 4:12).

But God has designed each of these precious arrows with a specific purpose. Our job is to point them toward the mission, to show them the right direction in which to fly. We need to be honest with them about who they are, with all their strengths and weaknesses, and about who created them.

We need to help them discover His purpose for them; to celebrate their uniqueness, while correcting their shortcomings. We need to teach them not only what is true, but why, and not only what is right, but why.

But, let’s be honest. Until God has our hearts completely and fully, until His Word guides our own lives – we can never really expect to show our children how to walk with Him. Our faith has to be more than a set of moral principles that affirm to be true; it has to be our very life.

To Consider

  • Do you have children in your life that you’re parenting, either biological or spiritual children?
  • How many of Mr. Waresake’s 10 traits of successful Christian parenting do you regularly use?

Which of these do you feel have been the most effective? The least effective?

  • Do you find it difficult to see your children (or those to whom you minister) as spiritual beings? Why might this be?

What are some ways you might personally be as intentional about nourishing their spiritual aspects/needs as you are their physical?

  • What are some of the pitfalls you’ve encountered in your desire to raise your child up before the Lord?

How might you avoid them in the future?

  • What do you think of the ‘children-are-like-arrows’ imagery?

What does it evoke within you?

What does it tell you about how necessary you are in the process of sending them out into life?

  • If you do not have children of your own to nurture, or have grown children, have you ever considered becoming a spiritual parent to a child who needs one?

How might you connect with a single mom or dad to consider such a ministry?

  • Reflect upon Michelle Anthony’s quote that her goal as a mom was not merely to control her child’s behavior, but to “pass on a vibrant and transforming faith.”

Is this your goal as well?

Does this statement point up anything lacking in your own spiritual walk?


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