Nora Allison is the wife of Dr. Gregg Allison, professor of Christian Theology at Southern Seminary in Louisville, KY. They have three grown children, Lauren, Hanell, and Luke and seven grandchildren. She co-leads the Women’s Ministry and is the East Campus Women's Director at Sojourn Community Church.
Nothing, nothing challenged and stretched and perplexed and grew and fulfilled this recovering perfectionist more than parenting; having a part in (and feeling the overwhelming responsibility for) guiding my three babies into adulthood. So many lessons learned, so many sins confessed, so many prayers whispered (and shouted) for help and guidance and wisdom.
Parenting is really hard! Every child is different and demands individual care, correction and attention. Every new trial is uncharted territory. Every cute little baby has the potential of becoming a sociopath! (I remember talking with a high school friend when I was pregnant with my second and listening to him try to convince me that child rearing was just like training his two dogs. All I could think to say was, “But your dogs can’t grow up to be juvenile delinquents!”)
Any thoughtful parent feels the incredible weight that accompanies the amazing privilege of “training up a child in the way that he should go, [so that] even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Ps 22:6). Entire libraries have been written on the best plans and strategies for “growing kids God’s way” and “shepherding your child’s heart” and “giving them grace.” There’s helpful advice to be mined there to be sure, but underneath it all is a foundational reality that God reveals about parenting that has served as my guide and my wisdom.
Psalm 78:2-4 reads: “I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark saying from of old, things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.”
As parents our primary job is to show our children what God is like and what God has done.
So it’s not about us doing all the right things. Home school? Public school? Private school? Little League? Music lessons? Drama club? Dating at 16? 17? Never?
It is about us doing one incredibly important thing well. It’s about us moms (and dads and grandmas and grandpas and aunts and uncles and caregivers) searching and seeking intimacy with God as He has revealed himself to us in His Word. It’s about reflecting the true God to the next generation. It’s about living in the truth that God is sovereign and good and that His grace covers a multitude of parenting mess-ups. It’s about telling and showing the children what He’s like, what He has done and what He can do.
Even now, as a Nana to seven who has spent decades away from my dad’s household, his influence in my life is huge. My knowledge of what pleased him, what impressed him and what disappointed him still affects me today. I knew all his accomplishments – because he didn’t hesitate to tell me each and every one. I knew what he could fix (anything!) and I can, to this day, hear his voice in my head commenting on how I pound a nail or back the car out of the driveway. Our most vital task as parents is to know God so well that what pleases and impresses and disappoints Him affects us, and our parenting daily. We want to know Him so well that what He has done and is capable of doing is obvious to little watching eyes; so well that what He says to us in all of our circumstances sounds loudly to tiny listening ears. More than anything else, our job as moms is to live out our intimacy with, our obedience to and our enjoyment of our perfect Father before our gallery of tinies.
God’s greatest joy and deepest desire is that we would know Him. He shows us Himself through His creation and He speaks to us through His Word. He gave us His Spirit so that we might know His mind, understand His truth and become more like Him. He sacrificed His only son in order to have a relationship with us and to cover over our imperfect parenting with His son’s faultless blood.
Your children won’t ever see a perfect parent. (So, get over it.) But, they can glimpse a perfect God through a mom (or dad) who strives to know Him, show Him off, rest in His perfections, and bask in His forgiveness when she fails.