The image of God that parents can portray is meant to make a mark in the hearts and memories of the children it serves. In this way, parents will do much more in the lives of their kids by leaving with them a living impression of God in a way that is impossible for anything else in Creation to make. If we do our job correctly, we parents can lead our children to a deep faith in God that is more valuable than any other inheritance we could leave them.
In his brilliant teaching on the family, found in Familiars Consortio, St. John Paul II wrote, “By virtue of their ministry of educating, parents are, through the witness of their lives, the first heralds of the Gospel for their children.” In this way parents have a role in presenting to their kids their first ever experience of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The modern saint wrote “through the witness of their lives” to highlight that children learn the life-giving Gospel through the everyday encounter that they have with those who gave them life. Just as Jesus presented the Gospel through words and deeds, so too do parents present the Gospel to their kids through words and deeds.
By loving and caring for our children, we make manifest to them the solemn truth that love exists; and if they see that love exists, it is possible and easier for them to see that there is a Being who is Love. Experiencing love allows our children to know The One Who Is Love, making the mystery of the communion of love in which we participate more accessible to their human understanding. Furthermore, I think that if our children do not have this experience of love as a foundation for their faith, it will be much harder to come to know personally this Great One Who Is Love.
We remember God can do anything, even overcome our brokenness, as Dr. Peter Kreeft has stated, “He writes straight with crooked lines.” However, God has sought our assistance in the creation and raising up of human persons in this life. We can see purpose for the slow growth in independence that children gain naturally as they age. Furthermore, within this purpose we see immense importance in the role of the parents to shape and prepare their children for a good life.
Even though we are imperfect and lacking, we are called to overcome and eclipse the terrible images of parenthood that are plaguing modern society. We need to overcome our desire to be “cool parents” who let our kids do whatever they want as long as it does not get in the way of their busy schedule. We should force ourselves to not give in to what is easy for ourselves in raising our kids, but seek to do the good things that are hard, but most beneficial for the physical, mental, and spiritual develop for our children.
As a father, I have noted the beautiful impression of God that I am able to leave on my children. Some of the ways that we do this are obvious, like providing for our children’s needs just like God our Father provides for all of our needs. However, there are many more ways I see in my role as daddy in leading my beloved children to God.
1. My kids wake up and I have already left for work. On most days, my wife promises them that I will come again before dinner. I come home to fulfill the beautiful prophesy just as Jesus will one day come to us again.
2. One day during Mass, my baby daughter started to cry. I swooped her up and held her close to calm and soothe her. So too does our Heavenly Father want to swoop us up and comfort us when we are upset.
3. I need to work to keep my promises that I make to my children so as to be the image of Our Father who always keeps His promises.
4. When my children come to me and I give them my full attention, I allow for them to grasp the loving attention that God gives us all.
5. In the same way, when I am able to help my children out with their problems, I can image for them the Good Father who will help us as well.
What are some other ways parents can reflect God to their children?