“Family is not to be comfortable but transformational.” –Paul David Tripp
I heard this in a podcast from The Gospel Coalition. It’s from Paul David Tripp who is the author of my favorite parenting book ever, Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family. And I’ve read tons of parenting books from my nearly 40 years of youth ministry.
Let’s think about that quote deeply. Family is not to be comfortable.
But we want it to be comfortable! We have ideations in our heads about how wonderful and beautiful–and comfortable–parenting is going to be. We have books and blogs reinforcing our ideations. We know all of the ways we aren’t going to parent like our parents.
Then you have to parent the teen who for unexplained reasons won’t turn in his/her homework. Every talk that you have about this doesn’t change the outcome. Every system you put into place doesn’t change this outcome. You are the one who fields the teacher’s emails and you don’t know what to say. You see your child’s failing grade and you are uncomfortable. You have no answers so you also feel like a failure. Why can’t you find the magic words to help your teen understand the responsibility of turning in homework? It’s so simple! Why is something this simple so hard? How else are you failing as a parent if this is a failure?
This is uncomfortable. This is vulnerably painful. This is heart-brokenness.
You never thought you would be this parent.
You never thought you would feel like a failure in your parenting.
You never thought your beloved could rip your heart open like this.
It is all so unfair!
Family is not to be comfortable but transformational.
You are being transformed. Pain is your beginning.
If you avoid the pain, numb the pain, deny the reality that is painful, scream at your teen so much to take the vulnerability off of you, you will miss the transformation.
This transformation is found in the Bible and is found in life (this is consistent). We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. Romans 5:3-5
Pain helps us develop endurance. Pain makes us stronger. I’ve written a lot about that here because of the pain–and joy!–of raising my boys. This is Bravester living. Read more here. Embrace this truth deep into your soul so you can overcome.
Endurance develops strength of character. This is the transformation we all want. But if only we could do it without the pain. If only! But the two go together. Pain is the beginning.
Strength of character is the parent picture we’ve always had. Here is how you get it. Problems and trials lead to endurance which leads to strength of character. Nothing in that says comfortable.
It is uncomfortable and not fair. It is not fair that the input we’ve put into our children’s lives does not produce equal output. We’d like to think that we’ve raised our kids right, we’ve sacrificed to do those right things, so we should get kids who make the right decisions. Kids who are one step ahead of what we wish as parents.
But our children are individual souls. With individual makeup and experiences and neuropathways that have been formed uniquely and have callings on their lives.
God has given us these unique individual souls to raise. We have been given this privilege.
This privilege does not equal comfortable. It is transformational. Our lives grow, change and are the better for it. (Trust me on this one.)
From Paul David Tripp’s book, this quote is apropos for the truth we need to remember:
It is vital that you believe and admit that you have no power whatsoever to change your child. Now think again from the perspective of the gospel of Jesus Christ… If any human possessed the power to create lasting change in any other human being, again, Jesus would not have come! …Parenting is not about exercising power for change in your children. Parenting is about your humble faithfulness in being willing to participate in God’s work of change for the sake of your children. Parents, here’s what you need to understand: God has given you authority for the work of change, but has not granted you the power to make that change happen. But we buy into the delusion of thinking again and again that that power is ours. We think if we speak just a little bit louder, or stand a little bit closer, or make the treat a little bit scarier, or the punishment a little more severe, than our children will change. And because the change doesn’t happen, we tend to bring it on even stronger. –Parenting, Pp. 60-61
Do you know why you won’t be the parent your parent was? (Even though you sound like that parent now.) Because you are willing to be transformed. You know that every moment that you are parenting your child that God is parenting you. (Another Paul David Tripp message.) You are receiving grace all along the way. You are being transformed. You are becoming of strong character. You are becoming someone you are proud to be.
Yes, it is uncomfortable too.