Reprinted with permission from Dan Miller’s book Spiritual Reflections. First posted at SharperIron Nov. 26, 2008.
My foibles as a father are numerous and varied. My intuitive responses to the rapid-fire ordeal of parental decision-making routinely unveil my native blockheadedness.
With this disclaimer firmly staked, I nonetheless testify to the remarkable benefit I gain from imitating my heavenly Father’s example as He nurtures His children. I am discovering that such imitation provides not only wisdom for parenting, but also becomes itself a means by which to better understand my Father.
For instance, by following God as parental exemplar, I am learning that skillful parenting occasionally commends the discipline of choosing our children’s pain over their pleasure. Living in an affluent, fun-at-any-cost culture, our default modus operandi as parents is to remove every pain as quickly as possible, or at least to reduce it as far as is feasible. But I find that God’s parental instincts flow much deeper and commend to us the capacity of permitting our children to suffer for their good (2 Cor. 1:3-9; 12:1-10; Heb. 12:4-13).
To illustrate, I once picked up my eight-year-old son from school over the lunch hour for a special father-son excursion to a local sporting goods store. I purchased a junior size basketball for him, and we dribbled and bounce-passed the new ball on the sidewalk in front of the store for several minutes (just to make sure it worked, of course) before I took him back to school. From that day forward, my son and that ball were virtually inseparable partners.