A friend of mine loaned me the book, Spirit-Led Parenting, a couple of months ago and I thought it would be the perfect book to bring on our Hawaii trip. I am so glad I brought it because God used it to put words to a lot of my thoughts as well as prepare me for a couple of upcoming sleepless nights. It just so happened that right after I read the excerpt below, Olivia hardly slept for two nights because of her first fever. (Did I mention we were in Hawaii?) I was so grateful I had read this insight because it helped me to choose a more loving attitude when I rubbed Olivia’s back at three in the morning.
Jared and I have been talking a lot about this idea of servanthood in parenting. I have heard from many friends over the years that parenting exposes their selfishness more than anything else, but I didn’t really understand what they meant. I now understand. When I am rocking my daughter in the middle of the night and I all I want to do is go back to sleep, I understand. When I want to read a book on a lounge chair on vacation instead of taking a walk with an active little one, I understand. When I need time to clean the toilets or organize my desk but can’t leave my sweetie because who knows what she’ll get into, I understand. Selfish parts of me rise to the surface in these situations and my old self that could do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted doesn’t want to serve my daughter. But I am learning as this excerpt suggests that parenting Olivia is giving me lots of opportunities to serve. And not just serve begrudgingly but with a grateful heart.
Spirit-Led Parenting: From Fear to Freedom in Baby’s First Year
by Megan Tietz and Laura Oyer, (pages 52-55)
“Megan recalls a night spent almost entirely in the rocking chair, sitting up with her daughter who was fighting a cold. At one point during the long, dark hours, she felt God speak clearly to her that there is a cost incurred in parenting under the leading of the Spirit. There is a price that comes with freedom…there is a precious cost incurred. The paradox of true freedom in Christ is that we must surrender our wills.
It’s about dying to self.
So much of what is spoken to parents (in secular and Christian material) is about maintaining and reclaiming yourself after you have a child, but there are few suggestions that one worthy response to God entrusting you with this little one is dying to your devotion to yourself. And since God Himself directs us to do so, we aren’t turning ourselves over to our babies or to other people as much as we are turning ourselves over to the Lord, who (among other things) leads and commands us to be servants of others.
We in the Western Church often give great lip service to the idea of servanthood. We understand that if we are to model our lives after the life of Christ, then we must choose the path of service. The New Testament letters are filled with admonitions to consider others more important than ourselves and to serve one another wholeheartedly and in love. And so we agree to serve God by serving others, right up to the point where service encroaches on our comfort. When confronted with the cost of sustained servanthood…well, this is when we start to squirm.
Spirit-led living, in general, is a difficult way of living to embrace, because in its true form it expects nothing in return. Ideally, in a marriage for instance, both people within a relationship are living out a mindset of service to each other on a regular basis. But reciprocation is not the motivation through which we are to give of ourselves. We must give, must serve simply because our Lord asks us to do so. And we are most definitely not taught through Scripture to take our convenience into account in these matters.
If we are to look at our spouse, or at a neighbor that God has placed in our lives who has needs to be met, and say, ‘I’m sorry, what you need from me isn’t convenient at this time. You’ll have to learn to require those things at an appropriate time,’ we would surely consider that attitude to be one from which we need to repent. Why would we see our children, the most precious gifts that God has placed in our care, any differently? Perhaps parenting an infant is one of the purest examples of living out the gospel because it is truly a give, give, give relationship. It is a constant opportunity to care for the needs of another.
Following the leadership of Christ and choosing a Spirit-led approach to parenting will cost you. It will cost you the luxury of uninterrupted sleep at night. It will cost you the security that is find in allowing the clock to put order to your day. It will cost you some of your ‘me time.’ It may even cost you some friendships with people in your faith community who vehemently disagree with this approach.
But what if, as that first year of babyhood winds down and a toddler stands where your baby once lay, what if you looked in the mirror and realized that the one who has grown by leaps and bounds in the past year is you? What if you could see that in most every situation you encounter, your first response is no longer selfish retreat but rather selfless embrace?
Would it make you smile with humble gratitude to recognize that in each moment you chose to approach your baby with a heart filled by the Spirit you were able to more closely relate to and identify with your Lord Jesus Christ than you ever had before? If you found, for perhaps the first time, that you were truly free in Him?
Would it be worth the cost?
The answer to this question is the very reason that we have written this book. What we know now is the result of deep, often painful, brilliantly beautiful work that God did in our lives as we each journeyed through the first year of motherhood.
‘If the Spirit has set you free, you will be free indeed.’ (John 8:36 NIV)