SPIRITUAL PARENTING by MICHELLE ANTHONY (A Dad in the Middle Review)
Last week on this blog, I reviewed Michelle Anthony’s book Big God Story – a book for kids which recounts the basic story of the Bible with a clear focus on how it all relates to Jesus. Based on that, I was excited to review a book on parenting which, I hoped, would come from the same God-centered perspective. I wasn’t disappointed.
In the very first chapter of the book, Ms. Anthony explains the basics of spiritual parenting:
“In this book we will explore what it means to seek God as our primary audience – to please Him alone with our parenting and seek Him alone for the strength and power to do so. Spiritual parenting is not perfect parenting – it’s parenting from a spiritual perspective with eternity in mind…Not only do I need to learn how to rely on God (since His Word makes it clear that He alone is the one who changes hearts), but I also need to learn how my children are fearfully and wonderfully made in order to best guide them on the path that God has designed specifically for each one.”
This is not a book about controlling our children’s behavior so that we are not embarrassed or inconvenienced by their behavior (a very man-centered approach to parenting) it is about parenting in a way which brings honor and glory to God and set our kids on a spiritual path towards God. Ms. Anthony describes her own goals for passing on a transforming faith to her kids:
- a faith in which kids would know and hear God’s voice;
- a faith in which they would desire to obey God; and
- a faith in which they would obey God not by their own power but by the power of the Holy Spirit.
As a parent, the following sentence really hit home for me:
“What you believe and where you aim your heart determines the direction and outcome of your entire life for eternity.”
Therefore, the faith and spiritual condition of our children is eternally more important that their temporal behavior. That is what this book is about, and it is a book which has the power to transform the way you parent and your relationship with God. The books combines theologically sound parenting advice with thoroughly practical techniques on how to implement that advice and real world stories and examples that demonstrate the need for, and fruit of, spiritual parenting. This is a book I would recommend to all brand new parents and any parent who desires to parent their kids for the glory of God.
This book is also firmly grounded is a truth that all parents, and all those who work with kids, should understand. There is no greater teacher or determiner of a child’s path than what they see modeled and lived out in front of them. Ms. Anthony explains:
“Our children need to see that faith matters, that it’s relevant to our daily situation, that it’s real.
So, what about behavior? Most parents, rightly or wrongly, are interested in the behavior of their children. What does this book offer to those parents? First, and foremost, it offers an admonition:
“…remember that one of the nonnegotiables for spiritual parenting is that it’s not my responsibility to control my child’s behavior…behavior isn’t something we simply manage – otherwise our Christianity is nothing more than what Dallas Willard refers to a ‘sin management.’”
There is hope though, and that hope comes through a full understanding of what it means to have faith (a goal in spiritual parenting). Ms. Anthony writes:
“In order to pass on our faith to our children, we need to understand what biblical faith is and how it is connected to action…So faith in our lives and our children’s lives must have this expression of obedience for it to be alive. Perhaps the fullest definition of faith comes from its meaning in the original Greek. The word pistos embodies three things: possessing a firm conviction, making a personal surrender, and demonstrating the corresponding conduct.”
In the end, the goal of Spiritual Parenting is to lead our kids down a path where they eventually end up in the Kingdom of God. In response to the love of Jesus’ that saves them and the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, they begin to desire to obey the will of God and act in ways consistent with His will. It is not a quick fix, but it has eternal impact.
And that, my friends, brings us to the end of Chapter 1. I was hooked and the rest of the book lives up to expectations. Chapter 2 lays the foundation for a relationship with God – a transforming faith. This is the kind of obedient faith that leads to a desire to obey God which is then accomplished through God’s spirit and not through our own power. In order to create space for the Spirit to be at work in our children’s lives, Ms. Anthony lays out 10 environments which we, as parents, should cultivate in our children’s lives to allow the Spirit room to work towards an obedient faith and spiritual transformation. Each of ten environments is dealt with in more detail in the remaining chapters of the book. They include the environments of:
- Storytelling: involves sharing God’s big story from the Bible with our kids. It means telling them the full story of God as reveal in His Bible and stressing that God is at the center of the story. By grounding our kids in the Biblical story, we move them from a self-centered view of the world to a view which is others-centered and revolves around God.
- Identity: is an environment in which we reinforce for our kids who they are because God made them. Ms. Anthony reminds us that we, as parents, often understand that our kids are made in God’s image but we spend time trying to create them in our image. Our kids need to know who they are in Christ.
- Faith Community: is all about getting our kids involved in the local church. God created us to live in relationships and community, and they are vitally important to the spiritual growth of us as parents and our kids.
- Service: does not ask “What do I need?” It asks “What needs to be done?” From working at home to serving those who are not as fortunate, we must foster an environment of service in our families.
- Out of the Comfort Zone: God did not create us to live safe lives. We grow when God stretches us beyond what we rare comfortable with. Yet, so often as parent, we want to solve all of our kids’ problems and not give them the same opportunity at growth.
- Responsibility: involves encouraging our kids to take responsibility for the gifts, talents and financial resources that God has given them.
- Course Correction: An environment of course correction is the opposite of punishment. It is not about getting a desired response or obedience. Instead it involves feeling pain, building up in love, and giving a vision of a corrected path which leads towards healing.
- Love and Respect: As aptly explained in 1 Corinthians 13, faith without love is empty. This environment of love and grace enables kids to receive and give grace. Children must be respected because they are made in the image of God.
- Knowing: It is critical that our kids know and our known by God. It is important that, in this world which denies the existence of absolute truth that we model our belief in God’s truth.
- Modeling: Kids learn what they see. We must model an active and transforming faith for our kids.
This book is a must read for all Christian parents.
I was provided with a complimentary copy of Spiritual Parenting by the publisher in order to do this review. That did not, in any way, influence the content of this review.