The Bible: My official parenting handbook
By Jessica Brodie
When I was pregnant with my first child, I read every how-to book I could get my hands on, from what I should expect before he was born to how to care for him after I brought him home from the hospital. It’s not like I’d never been around kids before—I’d been a “big sister” since I was three, and half my teenage years were spent babysitting! But I was overwhelmed with the pressure. Left to my own thoughts, fears about all the things that could possibly go wrong would escalate. Quickly.
After he was born, I remember sitting in the hospital bed thinking, “How in the world do you put a diaper on something this tiny?” I had to call the nurse in for help because I was afraid to put the diaper on too tight.
“You’re not going to break him, for goodness’ sake.” The nurse laughed, shaking her head and diapering my son so fast my head wanted to spin.
Eight months later, after stumbling through all the things a first-time mama has to navigate (late-night fevers! Lactation!) I vividly remember lamenting to my sister, “Someone really needs to write The Official Parenting Handbook. We need a guide!”
I wasn’t kidding. I’d read everything out there, it seemed, but no one had the Magic Answer I was seeking. I made do, like we all do, but those years were frustrating and hard.
It turns out I already had the answer in a book sitting on my shelf: the Bible.
A few years ago, I began to read the Bible cover to cover because I wanted to understand the Word of God for myself. I loved and trusted my pastors dearly, but I felt uncomfortable with the fact that all my major knowledge about God’s word was essentially third-hand. I craved insight I could find on my own, and I didn’t want to hear someone else break down the meaning for me. I wanted that task! I wanted that intimacy—me, God, and a book.
Little did I know the answers I was seeking—everything from parenting to how to deal with drama to resolving marital issues—were sprinkled throughout the Bible. Over and over again.
It was the ultimate how-to book.
Now, my oldest child has just turned thirteen, and I’m a mom and stepmom to three more. I don’t pretend to know all the answers, and I’m definitely still learning as I go. But it still wows me when I go to settle an argument between the kids, impress an important truth, or model something critical and find that time and again it’s God’s word I’m drawing from, not my own experiences.
I like various parts of the Bible for various reasons, but for those seeking good old-fashioned common sense, the Proverbs really speak to me. Written by King Solomon, the Proverbs are basically a big how-to manual on how to live a peaceful, God-led, contented life. Imagine a really cool Granny or Gramps giving you the eye, leaning in, and delivering some of the zingers Solomon penned.
For instance, right in Proverbs 2, he tells us that if we make insight our genuine priority, then we’ve wound up with a first-class ticket to the knowledge of God.
“And here’s why,” he writes. “God gives out Wisdom free, is plainspoken in Knowledge and Understanding. He’s a rich mine of Common Sense for those who live well, a personal bodyguard to the candid and sincere. He keeps his eye on all who live honestly, and pays special attention to his loyally committed ones” (Proverbs 2:6-8 MSG).
Live well, live honestly, try hard, and do our best to understand and obey God’s will, he’s saying, and we’re pretty much guaranteed things will go well.
I’m not saying bad things never, ever happen to good people. They do, and they happen all the time. But I am saying that people who walk with God, who try to stick by Him and do His will, have a better go of it. Their heart is in the right place. Their intentions are pure and holy, not self-serving.
Almost every parenting lesson and example I can think of is rooted in this.
I make mistakes all the time, and I know I’ll keep making them. I wish I’d sought answers from Proverbs (and the rest of the Bible!) when I was first starting out in my journey as a mom.
But I’ve got my ultimate how-to book now. And that makes all the difference.