Thursday, February 23, 2017

Parenting as Proclamation and Apprenticeship

Karl Barth did not write a lot about children. He wrote even less about parenting. But what the greatest theologian of the 20th century did pen on the matter parallels his emphasis on proclamation as central to the call of the Christian:
"Children are not by nature parents' property, subjects, servants or even pupils, but their apprentices, who are entrusted and subordinated to them in order that they might lead them into the way of life." (Church Dogmatics Vol III.4 p. 243)
This is a sacred yet heavy daily reminder. Our kids are our primary congregation; the living room, car rides, dinner table, bed time rituals, and everywhere we gather as a family are our most treasured pulpits; the way we manage conflict, interact with neighbors, talk about current events, elevate the cause of those most vulnerable to injustice and hatred, and how we spend and share our money become critical catechesis as we model the way of life called Christian discipleship.

Even how we respond to their angst and fears, questions and curiosities, tantrums and disappointments, and occasional locking of horns with siblings or parent can be as formative as any Bible story. These moments can be platforms to proclaim the gospel with as much grace and love as any preacher.

Maybe even more so.

And when our children embrace us in the morning, kiss us goodnight, and maybe even leave a picture at the base of the bedroom door after a long and tense day of child wrangling that leaves us feeling like complete failures, we become as much their apprentices as they are ours.* They proclaim the good news of God's love, joy, and forgiveness and lead us in the way of life.

We do well to pay attention.

*Picture above from my daughter on one such occasion. I was a mess when I saw this, only to glance into her bedroom and be greeted with a smile and whispered, "I love you, Daddy."