Let’s hold onto the confession of our hope without wavering, because the one who made the promises is reliable. Hebrews 10:23 (CEB)
I never read parenting books. Okay, that’s not true. I’ve read exactly one and a half parenting books since becoming a parent almost ten years ago. It’s not that I think they’re bad. They can be very helpful. It’s just that parenting books have a tendency to eat away at the core of my self-confidence as a parent. In other words, they stress me out!
The truth is that when I read a parenting book, I feel like I’m doing everything wrong. There’s so much pressure in our culture to raise intelligent, successful, emotionally mature, athletically superior, gifted, well-mannered, deep thinking kids that my almost 8 year old’s proclivity to burp on command seems a marked failure on my part. I just can’t take it.
My general rule of thumb in parenting is to get advice from a few select friends and acquaintances who have a deep understanding of parenting (and read parenting books). It’s so much easier for me to hear, “Maybe you can give him a list of acceptable places to burp,” from my good friend Susan, a licensed counselor, than to read the same advice in a book written by a licensed counselor I’ve never met.
The difference is that I trust my friend. I trust her because I know her. I trust her because she knows me. I trust her because we’ve shared stuff; big life stuff. I trust her because over the course of the past six years we’ve worked to develop a close friendship. We know each other’s stories. We share similar values and beliefs. She understands me. And I understand her.
Sometimes, I think we struggle to trust God because we don’t feel like he really understands us. Trusting God can feel like getting parenting advice from someone you don’t know. We wonder, “Does he really get what I’m going through? Does he actually have my best interest at heart?” Or even worse, “Is God judging me?”
The answer is no, by the way. God isn’t judging you. And yes, God understands what you’re going through. Yes, he does have your best interest at heart. The thing is, we can’t see that because, while God understands us, we don’t always understand God. God is not a trusted friend, he’s more of an ephemeral concept. We know God’s there, but we rely on him the same way we might rely on Dr. Oz. We watch his show a couple of times a week to pick up tips on living better.
As Jesus people, our relationship with God has to be just that–a relationship. And, relationships take time to cultivate. They also require a great deal of active engagement. It’s not enough to read the Bible, we need to engage it. We need to see our study of Scripture as a conversation with God.
Talk to God while you read. Tell him when passages don’t make sense, or when you respectfully disagree. Thank him for the passages that encourage you and inspire you. Be open to advice and instruction God may be giving you as you read.
The same is true with prayer. Praying is not something we have to stop and do at a certain time each day. It’s something that can flow, continuously, as we engage in our daily activities. We just need to turn our thoughts toward it.
Finally, I’ve found it immensely helpful in my times of doubt to reflect back on all of the times God has been there for me in the past. For example, if work is slow, I remember that God has always provided the right opportunity at just the right time.
I’m never going to read parenting books. My fragile ego can’t take it. Fortunately, I have really great and wise friends I can call on for guidance. I trust them. More importantly, I trust the one who sent them.
Blessings and Peace,