One of my favorite television shows as a boy was a short-lived series called, “The Greatest American Hero.” It was the story of a high school substitute teacher named Ralph Hinkley who had an encounter with aliens during a class field trip. The aliens gave Ralph a bright red suit which gave him superhuman powers to fight crime and protect the innocent. The suit even came with its own instruction manual.
The problem is Ralph lost the instructions. In every episode, he would somehow save the day as he clumsily tried to fly and accidentally discovered one of the suit’s many powers.
As a father, I often feel like Ralph Hinkley. I seem to have misplaced my children’s instruction manual. In fact, I’m not sure the hospital ever gave it to me.
Without the instruction manual, I have been forced to face numerous situations over the years for which I have felt totally unprepared.
It’s three o’clock in the morning. The baby’s crying with a fever. Do we take him to the emergency room? Do we wait until morning? How do we figure out what is wrong if he can’t tell us?
Kids are picking on my daughter at school. She’s crying. Do we talk to the teacher? Do we tell her to be tough and stand up for herself? How do we help her hurting heart?
At what age do you start talking with your kids about sex? What video games and TV shows are appropriate for them to watch? How long is too long to be on their electronics?
As a dad, I often find myself longing for an instruction manual – especially as my daughter now enters her teenage years. I don’t understand adult women. Now I am going to have to face a teenage daughter with no instruction manual.
Some might say that the Bible is our instruction manual. And there is some truth to that. God in his Word does give us divine direction in raising our children. He commands us to discipline our children. He tells us to be firm yet loving. He tells us to “bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
Our job as parents first and foremost is to tell and show our children what it means to be loved by God and to love him. Our primary job is to show them Jesus so they can believe in him and be saved.
The Bible helps us do just that.
The Bible, however, is not an instruction manual. It does not give detailed instructions on every aspect of child rearing. Nowhere in the Bible does God tell you what to do when your baby runs a fever or a boy asks your daughter to the Junior High dance. Rather, in his Word, God gives us the help we need to love, forgive and discipline our children.
As far as the other aspects of parenting, God hasn’t left you alone to figure it out by yourself. If, like me, you lost your instruction manual, don’t try and be a superhero. Seek out mature Christian parents from your church or family. Talk to your pastor. You don’t have to figure it all out yourself. Learn from the wisdom of those who have been there before.
And when you face the inevitable situations in which you feel overwhelmed and underprepared, take it to God in prayer. Trust in his amazing love for you and your children. He’ll be with you. He forgives our mistakes as parents. He works through our imperfect parenting to give our children what they need.
That being said, if you happen to find my instruction manual, please send it to me as soon as possible. My daughter turns thirteen in just a few months.