Wednesday, March 20, 2019
A Christ-Centered Approach to Preparing for Parenting
Part 2 of an interview with
Rob and Stephanie Green,
Authors of Tying Their Shoes
Through a gospel-centered approach to parenting, Tying Their Shoes by Rob and Stephanie Green, lays the foundation for expecting parents to welcome a new addition into their home in light of the gospel. First-time soon-to-be parents and parents expecting an additional child will find Christ-centered hope, practical advice, and encouragement toward parental unity in this invaluable resource.
The Greens know a baby brings many wonderful changes for both biological and adoptive parents. While other parenting resources exist to help expectant parents prepare for what’s around the corner, the Greens know the gospel is the best resource to ground couples in their relationships with the Lord, with each other, and with their children.
Q: There’s a lot of fear-based “preparation” expectant parents can be tempted to cling to. While some advice may be helpful, how do soon-to-be parents keep out some of the noise or voices aren’t helpful?
One of the things we like to remind ourselves is it is always possible to make things more complicated than what they are. Yes, parenting is war. Yes, we have to work at understanding our children. Yes, we want to be knowledgeable. However, I also need to remember that because we all live under the good and sovereign hand of the Lord, basic Christian teachings like identity, grace, obedience, purpose, priorities and dependence make up the core of life.
Our advice is to read books like ours to give you some things to think about. However, more importantly, do not forget to read your Bible, pray without ceasing, and rely on the one who died on the cross for you. Tying Their Shoes should push you to lean into Jesus and to rely on him even more.
When you hear or read a fear-based preparation, remind yourself perfect love casts out fear. Love the Lord Jesus, your spouse and your child. Learn all you can to be wise and thoughtful and trust the Lord for the grace and strength for this road of parenting.
Q: Do you have any advice for parents who are adding another child to the family? How do parents navigate the transition to becoming a big brother or sister well with their kids?
First, parents should be so thankful to the Lord they have the privilege of parenting another child. We have the opportunity to parent three of them. There remain certain foundational principles that apply no matter how many children parents have. For example, not finding your primary identity in your children is still an important matter. Parents should still work to make their marriage a priority. They should seek to raise every child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Those things are always true. In addition, remember each child is different. What you did with one child may not work as well with a different child. Be careful not to compare. One child may struggle to sleep more than another child. One may have more problems with reflux than another. One may cry more than another. Allow your trust in God’s sovereignty to dominate your thoughts and continually seek him for wisdom for this new child.
As far as big brothers or sisters are concerned, it is important to help them understand their place in the home. Just because we have a new baby does not mean we no longer love them. Thus, remember to include your older child(ren) in the care of the new baby.
Second, help them see this wonderful stewardship opportunity. The big brother/sister has the chance to help protect and care for their little brother/sister. They can help them learn about life. When our two oldest were little, the older was talking to the younger. He explained if you ever wanted something really bad for Christmas – ask Nanny! Here was big brother showing little brother how life really worked.
We always found in the younger years our children followed our lead. If we were excited about something, they were excited. If we were complaining, they were complaining. If you act like having a new baby is hard, then so will the older sibling. But if you act like the new baby is a gift from the Lord, your older siblings just might believe you.
Q: How would you encourage readers who have experienced difficulty on their road to becoming parents (infertility, miscarriages, adoption issues, etc.)?
Issues of infertility, miscarriage, or an adoption that fell through are incredibly hard and often take people by surprise. Few people imagine those kinds of struggles before they have them. Thankfully, the Lord has a lot to say about suffering. Many of his people struggled with the exact same thing. You can take comfort the Lord has a lot of say about your situation. We like to remind people to cry out to the Lord (Psalm 13), look for his grace in all its various forms (my grace is sufficient), and believe the Lord is for you, even when days are really hard.
Enjoy what the Lord has given. You do not know what the future will hold. Maybe issues of infertility will be gone … maybe not. Maybe you will have another miscarriage … maybe not. Maybe you will be able to adopt five more children … maybe not. Jesus encouraged us not to worry about tomorrow for today has enough trouble of its own.
In order to be encouraged, encourage others. There are other couples still waiting. Some have come to grips with the Lord’s plan more than others. 2 Corinthians 1 reminds us we can comfort others with the comfort we have received from the Lord.
Q: Would single parents benefit from reading Tying Their Shoes?
If being a parent is difficult, then being a single parent is especially difficult. Many single parents have very long to-do lists without reading another book. It is possible a single parent would grieve over a chapter addressing both a mom and a dad or to long for a relationship with a spouse like the one described in the book.
However, single parents can also benefit greatly. It can direct them to be center their thinking on Christ rather than task-oriented. If the laundry is not done or the house is a dump, then that might not be a crisis. Maybe you were able to spend some special time playing with your child(ren).
Single parents can also benefit from seeing what kind of spouse they would look for should the opportunity come. Some single parents settle for a marriage far from what Christ would want, and as a result suffer greatly.
God’s word doesn’t change. The truths found in God’s word are the same whether you are a single or married parent. All need the encouragement and hope found within the pages as well as to be reminded of the promises and the commands to be obeyed.
Q: How will biblical counselors and pastors benefit from reading this book?
One of our hopes is resources like this will help to prevent some potential counseling! Parenting is a dynamic process. It requires wisdom, prayer and the Lord’s grace every step of the way. As a pastor, I want people to be in the best position to respond to what they face. That involves thinking about a few matters in advance. In addition, since there is a chapter on mentors, it is possible for the church to have a more formal mentoring ministry to those expecting their first child.
Pregnancy does not typically lead people to seek biblical counseling, but as a counselor I am in favor of mentoring and learning in advance as opposed to waiting until preventable hurts and pains require additional guidance. However, maybe it is those who are expecting that do not know how counseling might be a benefit to them. Going through a resource and having a little counseling tune up may put the couple in the best possible position to handle the new changes well.
Q: If new mothers only take one thing away from Tying Their Shoes in relationship to pregnancy and labor, what do you hope that one thing would be?
God has blessed you with a wonderful opportunity to be a mom. While there will be uncomfortable days, there will also be great joy. That means you can trust him during pregnancy and with your labor. You can also trust that if your plans for labor do not work out, there was a purpose. Your great shepherd is with you every step of the way, so there is no need to fear. Rather draw near to him and trust his perfect plan.
If you experience hardship along the way then know he is with you every step giving you grace and strength.
Q: What is the main point you hope new fathers glean about their involvement with their child during infancy?
I was a very different father to my three children during their infancy. The life and family schedule were part of the reason for that difference. However, it was not all of it. I cannot hide behind an additional educational endeavor or a busy life. The fact is there was also a heart issue. I was more intimidated by the infant stage. I had a wife who was and is an amazing mom. I had a path of least resistance and I took it. That does not mean I was absent—far from it.
What I would encourage new fathers to do is engage in all the blessings and challenges. Yes, you may miss a first smile or a first step. In those moments rejoice that God has given you a job that provides food, clothing and shelter. In those moments rejoice that God is growing your baby to do exactly what babies are supposed to do. When you have moments of challenge rejoice that God is using them to make you more like Christ. It is easy to love and care when the other person gives you what you want. It is Christlike to love even when they do not.
Q: How does Tying Their Shoes fit in with Rob’s previous release, Tying the Knot?
The first book, Tying the Knot, attempts to help engaged couples begin their marriage well. It tries to connect how one’s relationship with Jesus impacts everything – how one loves, solves problems, communicates, handles financial resources, invests in community and functions in the bedroom. However, we all know that after two people get married each couple has to learn to apply the truths of Scripture and find comfort in God’s love and presence in the midst of various circumstances. God willing, this allows them to enjoy all the blessings he provides in marriage.
The second book, Tying Their Shoes, attempts to help expecting parents prepare for one of God’s special blessings in marriage—a child. We know not all couples will experience joy, but those who do have a new opportunity before them. Our goal was to offer couples a small scholarship. We know they will face a variety of difficulties and challenges. However, engaging Christ, His Word, and relying on Him in the midst of the changes can allow new parents to truly enjoy this blessing from the Lord.