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The Power and Price of Parenthood

It costs a lot to be a parent these days. Researchers estimate the cost of raising a child born in a two-parent, middle-class American family, from birth to age 18, to be between $150,000 and $200,000 — and that does not include the cost of college! Those numbers may or may not be accurate, but parenthood is a very expensive enterprise. Robin Fairbanks said, "I have an 18-year-old; her name is Alexis. I chose that name because if I hadn't had her, I'd be driving one." Other kinds of costs, of course, are a standard part of the package we call parenthood. Those costs include huge investments of time, energy, care, concern, emotion, anxiety, and attention. Real parents have what the Bible calls "natural affection" (King James Version Romans 1:31; 2 Timothy 3:3), and that affection elevates the price you pay for being a parent. It always costs to care, and the total cost of involvement with your child, in personal terms, cannot be measured except to say it is enormous, even staggering, and never-ending. A quote attributed to Elizabeth Stone sums it up. She said, "Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body." Stone is right. The price you pay for being a parent is to turn control of your heart over to your child/children. And though you don't live your life just for your children, your own sense of happiness and wholeness and well-being, to a great extent, will forever be tied to their's. Over 3,500 years ago Jacob's son Judah used these words to describe his aged father's love for his youngest son (and Judah's baby brother) Benjamin: this life is bound up in the lad's life" (Genesis 44:30). King Solomon noted the power of a child to bring gladness or grief to his parents: "A wise son makes a glad father, But a foolish son is the grief of his mother" (Proverbs 10:1). A loving parent may have to give a child up, but they can never completely let go. God Himself said about His wayward, backsliding people, Israel: "How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? My heart churns within Me; My sympathy is stirred" (Hosea 11:8). Bible students know God did at last have to give Israel up to judgment and captivity. But it broke His heart to do so. Parenthood is costly.

But there is also power in parenthood! Parents stand in a God-assigned place no one else can fill in the child's life — not the state, not the school, not even the church. Two familiar Bible passages remind us parenthood is a position oozing with potential and power for good: "Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6) and "You, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4). There's the potential and power of parenthood! Parents co-partner with God in the awesome process of not only bringing a new life into the world, but also nurturing and training it to mental, physical, social, and spiritual well-being and maturity. And most of all guiding it toward Heaven. Paul Faulkner said, "When we bring a child into the world, we start a soul toward eternity. . . .a soul that will never die. A soul that will spend eternity in either Heaven or hell" (What Every family Needs; p 129). God give us more moms and dads willing to pay the price and wield the power of true parenthood. Think about it.

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ