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Parenting and the Sovereignty of God

While thinking through some issues raised by Voddie Baucham’s What He Must Be If He Wants to Marry My Daughter, I was hit with one of those moments where the pieces fit, the light comes on, and one has no choice but to say “ah-ha.” Here is my realization: God’s sovereignty works in the same way parenting does.

What do I mean by that?

See, there’s the age-old question of God’s sovereignty and human responsibility — often posed, and I think wrongly, as predestination vs. free will. As I thought through the implications of raising my children “in the nurture and instruction of the Lord,” I was thinking about this passage from Baucham’s book:

Several years ago when Jasmine (Baucham’s daughter) was much younger, a family friend went through a difficult divorce. The breakup did not come as a surprise. It was obvious that theirs was not a God-honoring, biblically functioning marriage, and the handwriting had been on the wall for quite some time.

As things began to work themselves out and the dust began to settle, we talked with our children about the pain and high cost of divorce. As we took advantage of this teachable moment, Jasmine said something that I’ll never forget. She looked at me, shook her head, and said, “Daddy, I’m glad I’ve got you to pick my husband.” She was dead serious. She had just witnessed the consequences that often accompany a decision to marry an unworthy man, and although she wasn’t old enough to understand it all, she did understand that her father was there to protect her.

I have no intention of picking Jasmine’s husband for her. We do not advocate arranged marriages. Nor was that my daughter’s understanding of the process. She was merely acknowledging what she had been taught all her life — the fact that her father intends to play an active role in the process of finding and evaluating potential suitors.

As I read, lessons learned from Baucham’s previous book, Family Driven Faith, came back to me. I realized that what Baucham wanted me to understand was that everything I do as a parent influences the decisions my children will make when they are older. Whether my actions are intentional or unintentional, my children will learn how to approach life by my example. And as such I must make sure that I am a godly father obeying God’s command to “manage my household well.”

Unbidden, Proverbs 16:9 came to mind: “The heart of a man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” Ah-ha!

My children’s decisions are their own, but they are unavoidably shaped by my intentions for them as their father. Will I have raised my children to make strong, biblically faithful decisions that will bless them and glorify God? Or will I have raised them to follow after the traditions and philosophies of this world? Worse still, what have I unintentionally taught my children that might instill unwanted values in them? What a serious, serious responsibility and burden I must bear!

Then realization dawned on me: there is nothing unintentional about what God does. Every work of His hand has a purpose. Does not calamity come, unless the Lord has done it? Does not blessing come unless the Lord has given it? Does He not have mercy on whomever He wills, and harden whomever He wills?

My role as a father to my children is similar to God’s role as Creator to His creatures. His every intention influences our every decision, for good or for ill. And there are no unintentional moves with God. Every decision we make is under His control. He has planned for each decision, and determined which influences he will bring into our lives to affect them long before we were born. His influences are designed to bring about a certain end result. Just as I now determine which influences I want affecting my children’s decisions to bring about a desired result in their lives. Yet in both cases, our decisions are really our own. The heart of my children plan their way, but I have directed their steps!

The major difference between myself as a parent and God as our Father is that nothing can thwart the influences He has planned. As He is perfect, all-knowing and all-powerful; He knows exactly what must happen in each person’s life to bring about His desired result, and He does makes it happen. We merely acknowledge what we have been taught all our lives to the point of each decision. Our decisions are truly “free” yet God has “determined” from eternity how those decisions will come about. We really do what we want; yet all proceeds as God has decreed from the foundations of the world.

Realizing there is no conflict between God’s sovereignty and my responsibility, I shudder at the knowledge that God has made the role of parent such a mirror of who He is. I am unworthy to bear this mantle He has placed on me. So are we all, yet He calls each of us to be husbands, wives, and parents after His own heart. Just as God raises us up in the way He has determined we shall go, and we do not depart from it; so should we strive to raise our children.

Categories: Commentary, Parenting, Theology
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