This December, as a mom of four kids with another baby due in January, you’d think I’d have a pretty solid grasp on the whole parenting thing. Yes, I’m getting better at some things, but sometimes I still feel like the whole gig is a giant mystery. I found myself looking for parenting mentors in the Bible, and I welcomed a fresh perspective from the original Christmas couple, Mary and Joseph. I figured the parents of Jesus probably have a few tips and tricks we all can follow today. Four things stood out to me as I looked at their lives. We parents can learn from their story.
1. Mary showed us how to surrender.
When faced with an offer from God to accept the title of Mom as a virgin, Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” Luke 1:38 NLT Mary said yes right away. When disciplining, inspiring, or being in the same room with my kids seems impossible, I often complain, worry, or waste time instead of saying “yes” right away to God’s call on me as a parent. Mary completely surrendered to God’s request, even though she probably had plans for her life that made more sense. Whatever your journey to parenting looks like, you may feel inadequate, confused, or tired along the way. When we surrender to God, we get His best instead of our best.
2. Joseph trusted God, even when it didn’t make sense.
Considering his fiancée had started growing a baby bump, Joseph could’ve chosen to listen to the logic or advice of others and left Mary behind. Instead, he chose to parent Jesus, trusting God as the true Father. My two boys have fought asthma for years. I’ve watched my sweet two-year-old’s chest rising and falling, deciding if I needed to bring him to the emergency room. Parenting may feel too big for you to handle. You may feel alone facing the relationship choices of your teen, the drug addiction of your adult child, never-ending toddler diapers and tantrums, or a chronic illness. The truth is, parenting is too big of a job for us on our own! We can trust God, ask Him for wisdom and help, and remember that He is the ultimate Father of our kids and their parents.
3. Mary and Joseph waited well.
Have you ever felt like you’re not doing enough as a parent? Like you’re just sitting around waiting for the big stuff? Whether you long for your kid to grasp basic table manners, make important choices on their own as a teen, tell the truth, heal from an illness, start a career, or sleep through the night—the wait can be long and hard. Mary and Joseph waited, too, and they waited with confident hope. Imagine the years of waiting for Mary and Joseph before the King of Heaven was able to take His first steps, learn to speak and read, put others first, or learn how to build like Joseph. Mary and Joseph held God’s promise as hope. They waited for 30 years to see the promised son of God begin ministry. And can you imagine that three-day wait when they held onto faith that their Messiah-Son would be resurrected? We know Mary was one of the first two who saw the risen Jesus on earth! She didn’t give up hope in the waiting, and we don’t have to either. You aren’t raising baby Jesus, but you are raising a child of God with a story that may take years to unfold. How will our waiting in all those days, months, and years shape our kids?
4. Mary and Joseph kept walking.
As I write this, I’m 35 weeks pregnant. I get grumpy about walking from the car into my house. Mary and Joseph journeyed all the way from Nazareth to Bethlehem—maybe much of the way on foot! But I’m most impressed by their spiritual walk. They said yes and then kept walking. They walked through their hometown where rumors were whispered. Joseph walked beside Mary through her unplanned pregnancy. They walked through the first days of parenting, away from a dangerous king, and through each life stage of the Savior. Have you had some hard, even tragic moments of parenting that you’ve had to walk through?
Maybe you’re facing situations that seem impossible in the midst of pregnancy, raising your toddler, or guiding your teen. Mary and Joseph didn’t always know where they were going, but they kept walking. On the hardest parenting days, we can give another ride, offer another hug, go to another game, say another “I love you,” and maybe even an “I’m sorry,” all while trusting God for the next steps. Is there some part of parenting you’ve avoided walking through that you can take a step toward this week?
I’m thankful to have been searching for parenting wisdom in the Christmas season. The first Christmas teaches us a lot about God and His desire to be with us. It also shows us some pretty amazing parenting mentors! Let’s follow the examples of Mary and Joseph. We can surrender our plans and expectations to God. We can trust patiently, and we can keep walking this journey with God’s strength that builds our perseverance.