Posts tagged Mothering
Imitating Jonathan Edwards’ Godly Parenting

Words filled with biblical truth spoken into an air of uncertainty must be among the most agonizing parents can deliver to a child. Will children receive the Scriptures as foolishness or as the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:18)? The answer is not always known.

As parents, if closeness with our children were the only aim when they approach us with their fears and pains, we might restrict our replies to: “God is near. He is with you” or “God aches with you.” I find momentous biblical truth about the character of God in each of these replies (Hebrews 13:5; Lamentations 3:32-33). 

Yet, when in self-sacrificial love for our children we prioritize their relationships with God over and above their relationships with us, more biblical counsel emerges. This counsel potentially puts the parent-child relationship at risk for the sake of their good (Matthew 19:29) and sends us in prayer toward a God who draws people to himself.

Jonathan Edwards and His Daughter, Esther

Jonathan Edwards offered this kind of self-sacrificial love to his daughter, Esther. He wrote the following words to her when she was ill. His words meet the reality of the world’s sorrows:

I would not have you think that any strange thing has happened to you in this affliction: ‘Tis according to the course of things in this world, that after the world’s smiles, some great affliction soon comes.[1]  

He counsels her to make the time of illness useful within her spirit:

God has now given you early and seasonable warning not at all to depend on worldly prosperity. 

Having humility before God about her earthly illness would foster contentment in eternal rest. If she cannot improve her circumstance on this earth, Edwards advises she look to the eternal glory God might glean from her difficult season:

Therefore I would advise….if it pleases God to restore you, to lot upon no happiness here. 

Labour while you live, to serve God and do what good you can, and endeavor to improve every dispensation to God’s glory and your own spiritual good, and be content to do and bear all that God calls you to in this wilderness, and never expect to find this world any thing better than a wilderness. 

Lay your account to travel through it in weariness, painfulness, and trouble, and wait for your rest and your prosperity ‘till hereafter where they that die in the Lord rest from their labours, and enter into the joy of their Lord. 

He encourages his daughter to give herself wholly to the Lord in suffering. He can deliver challenging, truth-focused counsel because he has already made the same commitment to the Lord in his life. As a loving parent, being at a distance from his child without hope for future visits would undoubtedly be painful. 

But the exemplary nature of his contented commitment to God is on display when writing to his suffering daughter who is out of his reach, across many miles.  

You are like to spend the rest of your life (if you should get over this illness) at a great distance from your parents, but care not much for that. If you lived near us, yet our breath and yours would soon go forth, and we should return to our dust, whither we are all hastening. 

‘Tis of infinitely more importance to have the presence of an heavenly Father, and to make process towards an heavenly home. Let us all take care that we may meet there at last.[2]

He delivers world-denying hope in courageous words to a hurting child. First, by speaking challenging thoughts he risks that his words might be met with disagreement causing relational distance.

Second, he speaks words for the good of his child, without thought of himself. He advises his daughter to “care not much for” being near or far from him—so long as she remains near to the Lord. Edwards clearly has no greater joy than that his daughter would walk in the truth (3 John 1:4).

My Own Parenting

I do not want any less than what Edwards exemplifies. I would not ultimately want a pleasant-enough relationship with my daughter to the detriment of considering eternity—heaven and hell—together. Truth may be agonizing, at times, to convey—but these kinds of words are good; they are love. Speaking them is the kind of risk God asks me to take for the sake of Christ and the good of my daughter (Romans 10:14).

When my daughter is grown, I want her to see parents like Edwards. I want us to be rightfully content in the Lord so that our only request and hope is that she walk with the Lord to eternity. Edwards’ counsel is compelling, in part, because he is true to maintaining an eternal focus himself. To ask my daughter to follow me in contentment where I have never been would prove challenging! 

Ultimately, Edwards and his daughter are brought closer together through this focus. Esther writes of their relationship:

Last eve I had some free discourse with My Father on the great things that concern my best interest—I opened my difficulties to him very freely and he as freely advised and directed. 

The conversation has removed some distressing doubts that discouraged me much in my Christian warfare—He gave me some excellent directions to be observed in secret that tend to keep the soul near to God, as well as others to be observed in a more publick way—What a mercy that I have such a Father! Such a Guide![3]

Every decision of faith in the Lord is solely each individual’s to make. But, parents can aid their children’s individual decisions by refusing to create a relational dynamic intent on bringing us a sense of happiness and fulfillment. 

Looking to Edwards and his Esther, as a type of Christ-exalting relationship, we can continue to aim higher, with prayerful hope, for the kind of rich comradery that flows when both parties, by God’s grace, love the truth and content themselves in the Lord alone.

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Lianna DavisMothering, Featured
Cheerios, Transience, Sticky Fingers, and Righteousness

My fingers run over familiar lines in my home. Edges of tables. The soft back of the sofa where we have played and sat and read. I have a minute to think. The walls are colored with pieces of our lives like finger-paintings or crayon drawings. We’ll take them down soon, temporary things. We’re moving—not across the country or anything, but somewhere new. We’ll leave behind our nail holes. They’ll be filled. Someone else will start over with it all.

My fingers move to the binding of a book I am reading. But some of the pages are stuck together. Babies are messy; nothing is safe from them. I look down. She’s reading her own book now, my baby who I am so grateful for in everything. She’s big and solidly walks on her own. She has words to tell me what is on her mind and cognition to understand so much of what is on mine. It won’t be long before she’s in her own home, coloring the walls with her own crayons, sitting still and hoping to understand time for herself—or so I’m told. She’ll ache too, just like I have. And it will be over more than not being allowed to put sticky fingers into books—books, which the press builds and spews forward. 

I’m hardly, or not at all, reading enough to get caught up—but that’s not as important I guess. Blogs are daily and it’s hard to make that the conversation when I’m still processing something from last week or last month. It’s fast; it’s all too fast for me. Even moving to a new home is too fast, too easy. I am looking to reach the ground somehow so that when I move it’s like my feet are dragging in concrete because I had somewhere to stay. But in reality, I suppose I could do it again (but I hope I don’t).

I saw an edited picture the other day, a double exposure making a child’s head look like it was filled with Cheerios. And I sure could cut-back more on my baby’s Cheerios—I laughed at it, I think out loud. But I wonder what exactly we’re doing online sharing our hearts and our good messages. Part of it is so very good but part makes me want to sign off forever to de-clutter my brain of the many, many pieces of little Cheerios that I no longer digest. I must be doing something wrong. I sort of admire the people who are, mostly, offline. But then I think of the people I have met online and I am grateful. Still, if the whole of the web went away I have more than enough and so much joy and life. I have more than I could ask for.

All these things in my home, crayons and the sofa and a couple of tables that serve us well, they’ll be in motion soon—in the same type of motion as those who have moved before me, but many for far different reasons and with more urgency. The Israelites out of Egypt. The Israelites out of the promised land. The promise stated in the earliest generations of human history might have been fulfilled then (God is faithful), except they stopped moving toward God and so He said when it was enough, far enough. I’ve got sticky-finger “problems.” God, the Maker and Ruler of all, has children who hate Him. No comparison. But He is still faithful to Himself, and so, to us. He will fulfill each promise.

Part of me wants to combat the culture in my own little way by staying grounded and by never moving and by never do anything that is fast. Another part says that this isn’t my home anyway; it isn’t supposed to feel that easy, or as good as I want it to feel. Part of me remembers the vanity of Ecclesiastes and part of me to enjoy gifts from God—also in Ecclesiastes—but I also know to wait for the end of that book too to see that what matters is to fear and obey God through it all.

This is not as though authenticity and art and moments don’t matter; I believe they do. But in them—or, the goal of them—everything that is not righteous will not endure, and hopefully, we don't want it to. Is that my main thing here, in all of this? Because if not, I had better trade crayons for markers or lay off every weight—everything that’s too rapid. It’s easier to disengage altogether in the places we could engage well. I know that too. But every kind of medium has a different kind of beat—social media, blogs, and endless books too. Every medium, itself, communicates something. I hear the cautionary and the explorers each in my mind with their warnings and their passions respectively.

But 10 years ago, I was still deciding if I should join Facebook and—did we really think this thing through? I am still pointing my arms in different directions on here—is this right, is this it? But I don’t think I am supposed to feel blind anymore. After all, I like solidity and conclusions, and I like that the Bible is absolute in authority. Pausing, I am so grateful; we owe more to ourselves than the lie of total transience—except, of course, we are transient. I think you know what I mean. God is not transient and we are His.

Righteousness, moderate choices with limited time, identifying weights well to lay them off, seeing people in person, and, just, running my fingers over the pages of the Bible that tells me what to think from the God who knows me—these are things I keep coming back to in the quick of this all. Having fewer Cheerios, engaging more with the tangible stickiness that I can run my hands over in this home, in the physical places around, and in this heart, and do my part to clean it, and nail in—hard—the righteousness that lasts. 

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An Open Letter to My Daughter for Mother's Day

To my youngest daughter, for Mother’s Day,

Have I ever told you that I consider Mother’s Day a celebration of you more than me? When your older sister was made for heaven, and not for earth—taken there, graciously, before she was even born—I knew how dear to me were all the children God would see fit to give. I knew that it is a child who makes a mom.

My mother’s day is a celebration of you and her, probably more than it is a celebration of me. And this open letter is to you, my daughter on earth—supremely, to celebrate grace. Our lives have become meddled and interconnected (meaning, you’re stuck with me). You’ve come into my mind and heart, even after being born from me, to the extent that my theology has been improved by way of you, my God-image-bearing daughter.

Children make a mom in more ways than one.

You don’t remember being born, but I do—the moment you cried, alive, and were placed on me. How I wanted to sweep you up and swell your life with everything good; how fragile and resilient you were in one—facing this new place with high-pitched triumph, but all in need.

I knew that you were a sinner by nature—though not yet by choice and, in that limited sense, pure. I yearned to have no responsibility for influentially introducing you toward sin—and I still do. Before you were born, I was far into the mindset of being cautious with what I watched on TV, but you admitted me into this new, more brilliantly holy sense of God’s purity. I still see dimly; this I know. But those precious, new-to-the-world ears receiving blares of commercials’ gratuitous gunshots and screams, senselessly foul language, slanderous shouts, and far-less-than-holy conduct—even once—it couldn’t be. You and that couldn’t rightly co-exist. So how could I? I’ve become more careful than careful with what I watch. Your newborn-ness pealed away another layer, to better purity. Thank you.

Let’s move forward in time, because you’ve grown a bit now, and I need to cover two years in one letter; that’s how old you are soon—two. As I type, you’re playing rapid keys on the piano and will soon discover the puzzles that I set out—I’m fairly sure. But you don’t understand yet what I see laid into you. It has been swift that this woeful knowledge of evil bubbled to the top; the Bible tell us it’s always been there. To you, to your person, this knowledge is an ornery enemy, a dense shadow. I see that it’s too heavy for you! That you can’t shake it off yourself—that I can’t either. That it means you need my help and compassion, as co-sojourners. That I want to afford to you all possible holiness; however can I?

Jesus, only Jesus, can make you (and me) better.

For how long have I seen the great compassion in God’s command—don’t eat from that tree? I certainly do now. It won’t go well if you do. You won’t have Me in the same way—that is, until the sacrificing, serpent-crushing, righteousness-depositing Savior comes, and then, by grace, we can have him better. God wanted all for us, and we as mankind grimace—without his aid—that he gave that command at all. That he set us up—that he could have done better by us, we think.

No, he wanted to hold us back from the mass of it. And now, since that heavy knowledge crushed us back to dust, he came to be crushed.

Daughter, friend, I give you the same speech over and over. Don’t obey mom because she’s perfect or deserving, but because it’s what God wants to work into our hearts; as it’s too hard for you, ask Jesus to help you.Yes, God has instructed you to obey me, but it’s not for me—we sponsor exactly no showdowns in this family of the wills against each other. Know this—I seek to point to what’s best and what’s most glorious, for you.

My aim is to serve as a transparent facilitator through whom you can see to God. By through, I mean that I pray with all my might and usually without being able to find words—as straight through as possible. He’s better—look to Him, look up. Look to him for his penal substitutionary atonement so that you can trust as you surrender your life to his ways and see yourself reborn in him; he’s good. But you’re only almost-two. And we’re still laying theological groundwork.

We’re all babies in God—you and me, and everyone you know or will know; the apostle Paul speaks about becoming mature in Christ—but it’s all relative to the grace and sight we can have here. When I look at you, I see me all along the way—I cannot right now imagine his presence or glory any more than I think you can comprehend penal substitution. (Thank goodness I have been here about 28 more years than you and can manage to afford you more than what you have.) We’re fragile in sin, daughter—but while we were weak, that’s when he did for sinners what he did.

I am afraid this Mother’s Day letter had to take a rather un-celebratory route; but here it is—the triumph. Celebrate this: the God who said that when sinners were sinning, he longed to be a “mother” to them. Grace upon grace—Mother’s Day is all about grace upon grace, as I conceive of it.

Every smile of yours—especially the running, lifting, twirling, no-one-else-around-in-the-world ones—a sample of the grace of God. But your cries too—oh, how much God wants to give us, how pleased he is to do so. And when the knowledge of evil seems especially hard for you—that curtain he tore in two, the glory-light he made to shine through it, and the eternal levity from sin he gives. I didn’t deserve you, but he gave me you; you’re simply a joy, and he’s making me with you. Run to him.

Happiest of Mother’s Days to you—you and your sister have made mine, by his grace.

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