The Gift of Parenting is one that many in today’s politically correct society attempt to avoid. Or, more specifically, the gender-defined roles of fatherhood and motherhood are consistently downplayed. Often, today’s television programming focuses on the confusion of roles in a household—be it a “stay-at-home dad” for a child, a single mother who must be both roles for her children, or homosexual couples as parents. It is, as they say, a “modern” idea of family! Yet, what is forgotten in these distortions—for let’s face it, these situations are not now, nor will they ever be the ideal in God’s eyes—is that the Gift of Parenting is one through which we learn what it means to be a father or a mother. This Gift describes something of the very sacrificial nature of the inter-relationship between God and humanity. This week, we will focus on exercising Christian Stewardship in the Gift of Parenting.
There is not one of us, in our sinfulness, who can be held up as the “example” of
Let us examine, for a moment, God’s perfect Fatherhood. As the perfect and loving Father—His love finds its locus and fulfillment in eternally begetting His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. As the Perfect Father, His love spills out into Creation through His Son and Word, and this Creation is fulfilled and enlivened by His Holy Spirit. As the
perfect and loving Father—He remains totally other, so that He might welcome us into the Life that is with Him. As the Perfect and loving Father—He creates humanity to exist with free-will—that we might return His perfect love of our own accord. And He does this knowing that we will inevitably fail and turn against Him in our sinfulness. God’s perfect Fatherhood doesn’t just leave us when we disobey Him…rather, He sacrifices His Only-Begotten Son for our sake—that we might have a way back to Him for all eternity. Likewise, when we are threatened, He protects us with His Divine Love. As the perfect and loving Father, God provides the vision, opportunity and ability for us to participate in His Love for all eternity in the complete and perfect Joy of His Kingdom.what it means to be a good Father or a good Mother. So, how, one may ask, do we know and understand what these roles mean? Our Lord, Jesus Christ revealed what it means to be a good Father by revealing to us His Father—the Almighty God. And He revealed to us what it means to be a good Mother both through the person of His Mother, the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary, and through revealing His Body, the Church.
So, how does a father in today’s modern culture exercise Stewardship over this amazing gift? First of all, one must take into account God’s example. As father, one provides the external point of initiation into the family—think of holding a newborn child for the first time. The father’s role is to welcome his child into himself, just as God welcomes us into the total “otherness” (holiness) of Himself. A father must continuously sacrifice the greatest of himself for the sake of his children. God willingly sacrificed His Glory—His Son, Jesus Christ—for our sake. Similarly, a father must sacrifice his own personal desires and glory for the sake of his family and his children. He protects his children from the threats outside of the family. One fails in this sacrificial love—especially if/when a father lords this role over his family in an odd and un-fatherly power struggle. Yet, it is still necessary to correct in love, just as God does with us.
Now that we have examined the role of the Fatherhood, what does it mean to be a good Mother? Let us look to the greatest human example of motherhood—the Theotokos—who is both Mother of God and Mother of the Church. The role and nature of her Motherhood (as with that of all mothers) was to give of herself for the sake of her Son—and His Body. She both gave of herself physically, emotionally and spiritually. Physically, she fed the Son of God with milk from her own body. Emotionally, she nurtured and cared for both Him and His Body, the Church. Spiritually, she continuously hears the Word of God and keeps it in her heart. She provides sacrificial love for her Son by constantly interceding to Him on behalf of His Body, the Church. Similarly, the Church enhances and lives out the role of mother in caring for each of its members as a mother does her children: granting healing, comfort and love constantly.
So, the question remains, how does a mother in today’s modern culture maintain good Stewardship of her gift of Motherhood? Keeping the examples of the Theotokos and Church in mind, she sacrifices herself for the sake of her children: providing that nurture and comfort only found in a mother’s love. The skinned knee passes right by the father for the mother’s comfort and healing. Likewise, the mother sets the priorities in the Orthodox home. Good Stewards of their motherhood ensure that their children value their relationship with Christ above all else: including sports, music lessons, kolo dancing, etc.
The Stewardship of the Gift of Parenting is an exercise in sacrificial love for both father and mother. It also provides the framework in this world for a deeper understanding of the relationship between God and humanity through living out the role of fatherhood or motherhood. May God the Father continue to enlighten our understanding of parenting, deepening our sacrificial love for our children and one another, that, through the prayers of the Theotokos, we may continually give thanks and rejoice in the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God the Father, and the Communion of the Holy Spirit, always and forever!