By Amber Riggs
Being a parent is intimidating. It isn’t just the funhouse of potty-training, bedtime (why won’t they sleep?!), sibling squabbles, schoolwork, table manners, and housework that threaten my sanity…it’s the knowledge that I have to navigate this maze of mirrors while actually teaching them things. Important things.
I have to teach them, these four daughters of mine, not just to master basic life skills, but to follow Jesus without my daily coaching. Oh, and keep them alive.
That’s a lot of pressure.
Pressure I could easily crack under.
Of course, my newsfeed and Google are always faithfully standing by ready to identify all that I am doing wrong, how I can do it better, and the multitude of ways in which I am depriving my children of health and happiness.
In the midst of this whirlwind of information (and mis-information), it is easy to lose sight of the fact that the One who held the knowledge of the world in His fingerprints faced a very similar situation.
Jesus’ famed 12 disciples? They were most likely teenage boys between the ages of 14 and 21. There are written records of their maturity issues.
And Jesus had just three years to prepare them for a massive mission.
But did He ever come close to losing His cool let alone his sanity? No!
So what were Jesus’ secrets, and how can they save our sanity as parents?
Let’s begin with…
1. THE SANITY OF JESUS’ MESSAGE
Modern Christendom has a tendency to reduce the gospel – Jesus’ good news – to “believe [in Jesus] and receive [eternal life]” and then spin off a thousand dizzying Christian principles for living.
However, the cohesive theme in Jesus’ teaching was of the “good news of the Kingdom of God”.
‘Kingdom’ (Greek: basileia) refers to two things: the realm and the rule of a King.
Realm refers to the ownership of the world. The world is God’s realm. 1 It is not Satan’s realm. Satan does not own creation. God does. This is God’s world. As my children chant with me, “The Lord our God is the greatest King. He’s the Creator of everything.”
The battle between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan occurs in the area of ruling. While Satan does not own the realm, he does have the power to rule “in the hearts of the people and in the life of the world” through those whom he rules. 2 If we aren’t yielding to God’s rule, we are trying to rule ourselves. Our very imperfect selves. And our self-rule leaves us incredibly vulnerable to being manipulated and ruled by Satan.
When Jesus proclaimed His Kingdom, He was calling people to turn the rule of every area of their lives over to God. He was saying, “The ruler of the universe has come to rule in your life. Turn away from other demands for ownership of your life. Enter into my reign. Let me rule in the life of the world through my rule in you.” 3
THE GOSPEL INVITATION
This is the gospel invitation to you and me and on down to even our youngest children: will you let Jesus be your King? Will you let Jesus teach you the ways of His Kingdom in every area of your life?
We need look no further than Jesus’ teachings and the prophets’ descriptions of Jesus’ Millennial Reign to see a vivid vision of a life free from the influence of Satan: joy, peace, holiness, justice, knowledge, healing, freedom from oppression, the Holy Spirit poured out. Sanity. How can we not want this?
While we know that we must presently suffer for the Kingdom 4, Jesus taught His disciples that through His perfect sacrifice, we could be free of sin and the oppression of Satan to live in such a way that we would be living, breathing pictures of God’s future kingdom.
The Kingdom of God is a gift to all of us.
It’s a sanity saver because it means that I—and my home—don’t have to be ruled by my own shortcomings, my own weaknesses, my own chaos. Because of Jesus’ grace, I can be ruled by His wisdom and His Spirit instead. His peace.
The next time you catch yourself becoming overwhelmed—which for me, will probably be about 5 minutes from now—take a step back, breathe, and reaffirm Jesus as King over every part of your life.
It’s no surprise that there is a direct correlation between Jesus’ message and…
2. THE SANITY OF JESUS’ METHODOLOGY
As a rabbi, Jesus can empathize with mothers of children who are constantly at our heels asking questions. It is a key feature central to both vocations.
While Jesus held formal teaching sessions with His students, much of what we observe in the gospels shows Him as a living, breathing manifestation of His Kingdom:
- His forgiveness removed the curse of sin
- He brought unprecedented joy
- He brought peace and comfort
- He brought abundance, turning water into wine and multiplying bread and fish
- He healed the sick, the blind, and the crippled
The list goes on.
And yet, Jesus’ days were not about checking off a “Pinterest-perfect” to-do list of activities. He wasn’t constantly rushing from one place to another, even when He was summoned.
His journeys were every bit as important to the teaching process as were the destinations.
Every step that Jesus took as He walked from one town to the next was a demonstration of the power of the Kingdom of God over that corner of the realm. He talked of God’s Kingdom and brought the reality of it to people in incredibly tangible ways.
LEADING LIKE JESUS
Likewise, as parents who struggle to prepare our children for adulthood (not to mention the sometimes near-impossible task of getting them ready for school each day), we are invited to embrace the journey of demonstrating and expounding upon Christ’s power…
…as we fix breakfast, comb hair, blow noses, wipe bottoms, help with schoolwork, diffuse sibling arguments, soothe hurt feelings, wash dishes, and drag our children to bed each night. (And guess what! This is ministry!)
We get to bring the Kingdom of God with us to the library as we interact with the homeless woman by our side who is patiently waiting for the doors to open so that she has a warm place to sit. We bring it with us to the grocery store, to the soccer field, to the bank.
You and I get to bring His peace, His kindness, His healing to our children and to the people around us.
And when we fail miserably, Christ’s Kingdom is made manifest in our humble confessions and His forgiving grace.
Is there anything more freeing—more calming—than that juxtaposition right there?
Finally, we can benefit from embracing…
3. THE SANITY OF JESUS’ MOTIVATION
Jesus, too, knew that face-to-face time with His disciples was limited—that it was only a matter of time before they would no longer be breathing in the dust from His feet and that their lives and spiritual lungs would soon subsist on the wind of His Spirit.
But He wasn’t spurred on by the fear of failure or by the sound of a ticking clock. No, He was compelled by love.
Fear breeds anxiety, but perfect love casts out fear. 5
Jesus didn’t just love the generation in whose midst He walked. He loved the generations to come. He poured Himself into His disciples with an awareness that these men would be responsible for permeating future generations with the gospel.
This love kept Him focused.
It meant that He kept His ministry focused on the community of Israel because He knew that His followers would be the ones to carry His love to other nations and people.
THE LEGACY OF CHRIST-LIKE LEADERSHIP
These children we are training will in turn impact people beyond our scope. And they will be the ones to carry the gospel to a generation beyond our time, to prepare that generation to carry it to the one beyond theirs. To our grandchildren and great-grandchildren and their world.
In my love for them, I pray that they would discern His call to serve Him in vocations that light up their faces with an understanding of how they fit into His plan. That they would be able think critically and effectively communicate God’s heart through their actions and words.
When the Kingdom of God becomes our lens, God’s plans for our lives—and our children’s lives—come into focus.
And we find ourselves walking on a golden path from here into eternity.
It’s a path that runs unintimidated by the amazingly loud and colorful big-top of parenthood, drawing us past the many intersections of the information superhighway, dwarfing its billboards with ones of its own that say, ”Peace, be still”, as we focus our eyes on the One whom we call King. And in Him, our sanity remains intact.