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You Can’t Parent Alone
Before conceiving our twins, Lois and I were as prepared for parenting as any couple could be. We both babysat extensively and lived with Christian families. So we sat in the front row, watching others’ strengths and weaknesses as parents. I read the most definitive books on parenting available at the time and planned to follow the advice each gave with the military precision I applied to the rest of my life.
As our children grew, life threw us a curveball or two. Potty training humbled me when it didn’t work as I had planned. That should have been a sign that I needed God more than the parenting books. But we pressed on, purposing to be good Christian parents and expecting our children to become good Christian kids. We were careful not to expose Emma and Nathan to too much TV or inappropriate programs. They grew up with family worship and (somewhat) daily devotions. We decided to homeschool them so that we could shape their curriculum with a God-centered focus and we enrolled our twins in our local church homeschool co-op. We sat together as a family in church and looked to help all our kids develop friendships with other children from our church.
Our daughter Emma turned out just like we planned. She wasn’t perfect, a bit slow to do work or chores, but she responded well to discipline and God began to draw her to himself at a young age. She gave her life to Christ in her teen years. She saw how God lifted the weight of sin from the shoulders of others in our church and, in the middle of one night, she went into the bathroom to call out to God. She wouldn’t stop until he removed the weight of her sin. God kindly responded with grace, and she left the bathroom a different person. We noticed a difference in her service around the home as she started helping out without being asked. She became a shining star.
Nathan, on the other hand, played the part of a good Christian son on the outside, but inside he was far from God. A sizeable group of his homeschool classmates created an anti-fellowship pact, where they pledged they would never tell on each other, no matter what they did. So, while I slept at night, Nathan was sneaking out of our house to meet up
with his other church friends to go drinking in a local park. It wasn’t until another family caught one of their kids that we found out that Nathan was involved. I remember crying out to the Lord, pleading my case. “God,” I prayed, “I am sleeping at two in the morning!
How can I be expected to parent twenty-four hours a day?” We also told our son that he was too young to date, but that didn’t stop him. He had a secret girlfriend in his double-life world. To us, she was just a “friend.”
Then came the first of several run-ins with the police. I got the call no dad ever wants to receive. “Can you come pick up your son at the station?” He and his girlfriend were taken into custody since they were in a car containing drugs. I felt a wave of relief when I discovered that the police did not charge them, as the drugs belonged to the car’s owner. But subsequent run-ins revealed that my son was as involved as any of his other church friends.
“Church kids!” I called out to God, laying out my case for God’s unfairness to me. “Lord, we homeschooled them. We did devotions with our kids and family worship. We were careful not to expose them to worldliness, and we limited their friends to other church kids. What more are we supposed to do?” At that moment God was kind to answer me. I felt a distinct message in the core of my being. The Holy Spirit convicted me of my independence. “I don’t want you parenting standing up; I want you parenting kneeling down.” The scales fell from my eyes as I realized the pride with which I had parented. That was when Psalm 127 gained new meaning: “Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” I am convinced that God designed my son’s trials to humble me. If he had transformed Nathan’s life as he had Emma’s, I would have become the most self-righteous pastor ever, attributing their success to the work of my hands. God wanted the credit for saving my children; I was looking to keep it for myself.
A decade or more before we met, Lois prayed for my salvation in her regular petitions to God for her future husband. Saved at a young age, she understood her need for God and his help in the building of her home. I am certain that when I get to heaven, God will reveal that my salvation was an answer to her prayers.
Having heard that her mother prayed for me long before I was a believer, our daughter Emma set out to pray for her future husband. She started a prayer journal in her later teen years. She prayed that whole first week that God would save her husband. She wrote, “Dear Lord, please keep my husband safe tonight, please watch over him and let him
know you are near. God, please pour out your power on him when he feels weak and draw him near to you. Please make him into a man who loves you more than anything the world has to offer. God, when he is feeling tempted, please make yourself and your promises so very real and relevant to him. Lord, you know who this man is and you see all that I can’t see, so I entrust him to your care. Thank you for all you are doing and will do in this man’s life. I love you, in Jesus’s name. Amen.”
It wouldn’t be until after she got engaged that she would see just how faithfully God answered her prayers, but that is real-life story for another chapter.
Excerpt adapted from Parenting First Aid by Marty Machowski, ©2018 New Growth Press.
More about Parenting First Aid
In today’s world of insta-porn on electronic devices, the ease of access to drugs, and the ever-increasing blurring of sexuality, families are assaulted with an unprecedented level of trials and challenges. Parents are faced with disappointment and overwhelming trials. They often blame themselves when their children struggle and don’t recognize that God often allows trials to help parents lean on and trust him.
Parenting First Aid: Hope for the Discouraged by best-selling author Marty Machowski (New Growth Press/September 24, 2018) is designed to point parents back to God. His goal is to encourage overwhelmed parents with the Bible passages that encouraged him when he experienced trials as a parent. “The best advice I can give parents in a major trial is don’t give up, and don’t allow the enemy to discourage you or tell you God doesn’t care or won’t help. Galatians 6:9 has always encouraged me: ‘And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap if we do not give up.’”
Marty Machowski is a Family Life Pastor at Covenant Fellowship Church in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania, where he has served on the pastoral staff for thirty years. He is the author of numerous resources for churches and families, including The Gospel Story for Kids series, The Ology, and Parenting First Aid. Machowski and his wife, Lois, and their six children reside in West Chester, Pennsylvania.