As a mom, I’m always looking for advice and great examples to follow. I can browse Pinterest for recipes to sneak veggies onto my kids’ plates. The pediatrician keeps me up to date on car seat safety and dealing with the flu. My teacher friends and fellow moms are on hand if I’m stumped by challenges at school. Everywhere I look, somebody’s ready to help keep my kids healthy and happy.
Even so, it can be harder to find guidance for my highest calling—teaching God’s Word and inspiring my children to fall in love with Jesus. An awesome parenting example is right in my hands, in the Bible. The apostle Paul was a spiritual parent to the believers he led to Christ and discipled to maturity. He compares himself to a “nursing mother” and a “father through the gospel.” Speaking to the churches in tender, loving terms, he called them his beloved children. Just like me, his life was centered around teaching, serving, and loving his “kids” every day. Here are five ways Paul shows me what spiritual parenting looks like:
- Prayer. He talked to God all the time about his children. (Ephesians 1:15) He thanked God for each one. He asked for them to have strength in tough times and a soul-filling knowledge of God’s love. He knew the ways they suffered. He heard their tough questions and doubts. Just like we can pray as parents, he put his kids in God’s hands and watched him do incredible things.
- Leadership. Paul wasn’t afraid to take charge. He knew his role was “by the command of God,” so he led without apology. (1 Timothy 1:1) He called his kids out for their sins and choices. He challenged them to be brave and discover their own callings from God. He put them back on their feet when they were scared and discouraged. He did the tough, day-by-day work of moving them forward.
- Humility. Paul faced the same battles as every one of his kids. He struggled with temptation. He depended on God for strength and wisdom. He needed the Spirit to give patience, gentleness, and hope when they kept messing up. He never claimed to be perfect, since he was “pressing on toward the goal” just like everybody else. (Philippians 3:12-14) A humble heart created compassion since we’re all in it together.
- Suffering. Paul gave up financial security, personal safety and comfort, and his reputation to be there for his kids. (1 Corinthians 4:10-13) In the same way, we feel the sting when our culture devalues motherhood. We step out of the limelight so our kids can shine. We know the exhaustion of serving little people whose needs never stop. Out of love, we keep on giving and going no matter the cost.
- Faith. Paul had a faith story of his own—a walking example of a transformed life. We, too, have turned away from religious rules to a real relationship with Jesus. We’ve been set free from the darkness of our past. We hold on to Scripture as our source of knowledge, truth, and hope. We have contentment and joy despite dirty diapers, crazy schedules, and moody teens. (Philippians 4:11-12). Our faith is an example our kids can follow as the living God reveals himself through our lives.
When I became a mom, I never expected a single “dad” like Paul to be one of my best mothering mentors. But I’m thankful God knows what I need—his perfect Word and his faithful people show me the way.