I recently watched an award winning movie, Born Free, based on the book written by Joy Adamson about an orphaned lioness the author and her husband adopted in northern Kenya. Primitive cinematography could not detract from the power of this story of the British couple’s determination to return Elsa to the wild where she was born. For ‘free’ meant ‘free to be what God designed her to be.’ Being ‘free’ meant facing danger and learning to survive. And, by contrast, it meant that they could never consign the animal to the constraining safety of a zoo.
There’s a parable, here, for us as parents. A lioness in her natural habitat protects her cubs, even if necessary, with her life. She provides not only for their safety, but for the nourishment they need to thrive. She prepares them with training to develop all they will need as adults, and when she knows they are ready, she propels them out of her domain into an environment for which they were born.
Protect – Provide for – Prepare – Propel! Here is the parents’ task wrapped up in four verbs.
Resources for parenting are far more abundant today than they were sixty years ago when Frank and I established a home in a little West African country and peopled it with four children. Our parenting style was strongly influenced, of course, by the way we were parented, for us a study in contrasts. “Spare the rod and spoil the children” was a fairly strong edict in our shared understanding. But we gave our children a heritage rich in adventure, laughter, hospitality, and love. Our home was open to stranger and friend alike. Our flaws were pretty obvious in daily life, but so was our desire to serve God. Should we expect kudos for the way we protected, provided for, prepared and propelled our kids into their respective adult worlds? I think not. But, in some ways, I would say in our defense, we did the best we could.
Today, I believe that doing “the best we can” is not enough. My word to young adults is this: If you plan to have children – if you already have children – then please consider parenting as your most important job in life – period. How well you protect, provide for, prepare and propel your children has eternal consequences. Cheer up! You have wise counsel available now like Dobson, Turansky and Rienow! These three are just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. For, even more, perhaps, you have God’s Word, readily available in current language and God’s Holy Spirit to infuse you with wisdom and strength.
Frank and I had the Bible, of course, without the noble teachers I mentioned in the last paragraph. And remember, we, too, were being protected, provided for, prepared and propelled by our Heavenly Parent into our work to advance God’s Kingdom on earth. Eleven years ago, we released my beloved partner of fifty years from this life. As it turned out, cancer propelled him into the life of perfect freedom he now enjoys with his Savior. Someday it will be my turn. Until then, I’m on duty here on earth parenting primarily by intercessory prayer and words of encouragement offered to the ‘cubs’ I gave birth to. No longer children, they have their own parenting roles to play, as will their children after them.
True freedom, I believe, is freedom to be all that God wants me to be. It’s to fulfil God‘s design for my life. I’m praying that you will marshal your resources and rearrange your priorities, if necessary, to be God’s instrument in your children’s lives and the lives of those you mentor. Continue to protect, provide for, prepare and propel them forward into what is God’s best plan for them. What a privilege! What blessing you will convey to generations yet to come!
…brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. Romans 8:21b