Stroll the aisles of Barnes and Noble or click through pages on Amazon. There is an inundation of parenting books. Overwhelming. I had to stop reading them because they were paralyzing me with fear and contradicting advice. I now seek advice from flesh-and-blood people whom I trust and admire. Some of them are dead. One of them ate locusts and honey.
Good old John the Baptist. You know, the one who lived in the wilderness and wore camel hair and ate locusts and honey, the single cousin of Jesus who was never married and got beheaded. Just the type of person one would look to for parenting advice, right?
All joking aside, I have gleaned so much from studying John the Baptist’s life. And though he is not the type of guy who would probably be featured in Parenting the magazine or on the Dr. Oz show, his life has so much parenting wisdom packed into it.
Though he never had physical children, John had many followers, many disciples. He devoted his life to preparing the way for the coming of His cousin who also happened to be the Christ. He called a stubborn people to repentance and a return to the ways and the words of God which had been passed down from generation to generation. He knew all along that the baptism he offered was merely external, provisional, temporary, second to the deeper, more lasting baptism of the Spirit that would come through Christ alone.
He knew from the beginning that he would work himself out of his job. He knew that he was raising up and spending time with and devoting himself to disciples whom he would one day release unto the care of a greater teacher. He knew and announced from the beginning that a greater One was coming, One whose sandals he himself said he was fit to untie.
I think of this glaring odd yet Spirit-filled single man as a hero of mine and a mentor as regards parenting.
You see, he and I share a lot in common. I, too, know that my role in my boys lives is primarily a preparing role. I am to set the scene, teach truth, teach right and wrong, call for my children to follow the known way of the Lord. But I cannot make it stick. I may encourage outward conformity, which is a necessary step, but I cannot internalize those truths into their hearts and lives the way the Holy Spirit can and will in due time.
I long for the day when I can look up in the midst of my active parenting and see Jesus on the scene of their lives. When I can point to Him and say, as John said to his disciples, “Behold, the Lamb of God” or in common-speak, “That’s Him! That’s the One I have been telling you about and preparing you for all these years!”
What humility John must have had to be able to release his disciples, the followers who up until then had been devoted to him, had followed him, had thought the world of him, into the training of a greater teacher.
And yet John knew his role, he knew this is the One they had been waiting for, the One they needed to leave him to follow.
The sweet honey of wisdom from the locust eater. We prepare, we pray, we point, and we release.