I lived in Eastern Germany for a little over a year in my early twenties. I went there as a missionary for my church where I spent all day studying about and talking to people about God and Jesus Christ. I met people from all over the world with different beliefs and backgrounds. It was a defining time for me in my life, not only as I tried to help others come closer to God but also as my own faith was tried and strengthened. The truth that sustained me most was knowing that God lives and feeling that I truly meant something to Him. Because of this knowledge and the power it gave me I was determined to help other people feel the strength of knowing that they could feel the same feelings of worth as they understood they were children of a loving Father in Heaven.
Fast forward a few years later and my husband and I welcomed our first baby into our home. I was about as naïve as a new mother could be, but I did know one thing: because I had felt God’s love so fully in my own heart I knew that my most important job as a mother was much the same as my job as a missionary – to help my child feel that same feeling of divine worth I feel.
Gordon Hinckley said “There is something of divinity within each of us that needs cultivation, that needs to come to the surface, that needs to find expression. You fathers and mothers, teach your children that they are, in a very literal way, sons and daughters of God. There is no greater truth in all the world than that—to think that we have something of divinity in us”.
As parents, God has entrusted us with His children. First we understand our own worth in God’s eyes and then when we become parents we can easily feel God’s love for our children. We understand that if our own love for our children makes our hearts hurt sometimes, God’s love for them must be truly incomprehensible. And once we feel that swelling, amazing, divine love for our children we begin to parent them very differently.
With that in mind, my favorite parenting advice was given to me once from a seasoned father of nine (when someone with nine kids talks parenting, you listen!) .The phrase that he used was, “parent with the end in mind”. What started as a seemingly simple parenting concept for my husband and I to talk and think about has evolved into one of my core parenting philosophies. Parenting with the end in mind influences everything I do as a parent.
Parenting with the end in mind means assessing every parenting situation that you encounter with this question in the front of your mind: how will my parenting actions now affect my child in 10, 20 or 30 years down the road? And even more, because we know how much God loves our children and how much potential he sees in them, parenting with the end in mind also means asking, “What can I do now that will help my children grow in their understanding of God’s love for them and develop their own love for Him?” The scriptures assure us that if we “train up a child in the way he should go . . . he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). Asking ourselves these questions will help us set the feet of our children on the path that leads them closer, and eventually back to, their Father in Heaven.
These questions can also begin to influence the daily decisions we make, from helping children learn to appropriately deal with the pain and emotion of skinning a knee so they can handle deeper pain later, to helping them develop healthy eating, sleeping, friendship, activity, and technology habits. Parenting with the end in mind happens when a father models correct affection and love for his wife so that his children will learn early how they should treat their own spouses later. Parenting with the end mind happens when a mother helps her children develop a love for reading instead of an addiction to technology so that they proactively use their time and their brain throughout their life. Further, parenting with a divine end in mind happens when parents show their children God’s hand and love in the small moments of their lives so they always remember Him.
Now obviously I am no seasoned parent, nor do I have nine grown children to have real results from my parental philosophies BUT I have felt the difference it has made in the way I parent and the way I feel about parenting. And now, even when I am not on top of my parenting game like today, I know that God’s love is there to guide me as I keep focused on my goal to parent with the divine end in mind by remembering the potential he sees in me and my children as I lead them through their early years of life.