In/dependence

I’m a father. My son is 18 and my daughter is 16. They are great kids and I love them. Like their father, however, they are not perfect (both are far better than me at that age, however — 18 year old Tony was a real piece of work). They do not always listen to me. In fact, they sometimes defy me. They are not belligerent, thank heavens, but they do sometimes decide that their way is better.

It’s painful to watch my children choose what I know will harm them, either now or later. My deepest response is neither disappointment nor anger (although I have brought the thunder on both of them at different times). What I really feel is love. Period. I don’t want to see them hurt, but I must also let them make their own decisions if they are to grow and mature. I will always be there to pick them up should they fall.

A fundamental aspect of parenting is growing your child from complete dependence as an infant to independence as a young adult. It is a journey filled with bumps and bruises, but also celebrations and joy. Some laughter, some tears.

My experience in raising two children has taught me a lot about my relationship with God. I am His child, after all. So are you, my friend.

15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. Romans 8:15-17

Ironically, it’s been in my hardest parenting moments that I’ve learned the most about being a child to God. I have defied Him as well. I have said, “my way, not yours” and then asked Him to bless (or at least forgive me for) my selfish plans. Through my feelings of love toward my children during their disobedience, I’ve learned that God is neither mad at me nor wagging His finger in disapproval. He is always beside me, always trying to protect me from what He knows will harm me.

I’ve learned something else, though. It’s paradoxical.

  • My job as dad is to grow my children from dependence to independence.
  • God’s task with me is to gently, patiently, gracefully transform me from independence to dependence.

You see, I was born sinful. I was born to choose me over God. I have been bred over millennia to worship me, not God. My birth day battle cry was “Independence or die!”, tiny fists clenched and jaw set in bitter resolve.

Slowly — oh so painfully, frustratingly slowly — I am learning a new cry. It’s one I give from my knees with open hands, sometimes in defeat, always in worship. It is “Abba, Father, your way, not mine.”

Peace, child. Live in dependence.

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About Tony Schmitz

Tony Schmitz received his BS in Mechanical Engineering from Temple University in 1993, his MS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Florida in 1996, and his PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Florida in 1999. He is a mechanical engineering professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
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