Focus 3 (of 4) -Parenthood is Forbearance

Focus 3 | Parenthood is Forbearance

To care for someone is a gift that can’t be earned. Enjoy it wisely.
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Don’t switch the cart and the horse: All authority follows parenthood.

It starts with God, who needs nothing but chooses to become the Father of all so that all may depend on him and he may love them. In his role as “the one who loves,” God has authority. He echoed this dynamic in creating the family—dependent children looking in trust to parents who have the authority to love them.

The fact is that if you look at authority through the lens of parenthood, you’ll find a system that works—and if you look at parenthood through the lens of authority, you’ll find one that doesn’t.

Families (particularly parents) empower all the other authorities—the Father (God) comes first and it all flows from there. The family/parenthood authority isn’t the be-all-end-all of authority, though! Led by God, individual households expand their families through cooperation and delegation.

Play the game below to see how this plays out in your daily life.
Welcome Perspective
All authority comes out of the parenthood of God the Father.
Praise the God who is master of all.
Read through the below text as a group (if in a group). Designate someone to read the bold statements and everyone else read the indented quotes together.

There is just one source for all things: God.

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Ephesians 4:4–6

This is no different than calling God the parent of everything.

For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.
1 Corinthians 8:5–6

All creatures, as his children, can be grateful for his greatness.

O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth!
Your glory is higher than the heavens.
You have taught children and infants to tell of your strength,
silencing your enemies and all who oppose you.
Psalm 8:1–2

God has power over the breadth of the universe—yet still he chooses to love and share himself with something as small as humanity.

When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—
the moon and the stars you set in place—
what are mere mortals that you should think about them,
human beings that you should care for them?
Yet you made them only a little lower than God
and crowned them with glory and honor.
Psalm 8:3–5

Even the way things interact is evidence of his great love.

You gave them charge of everything you made,
putting all things under their authority—
the flocks and the herds and all the wild animals,
the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea,
and everything that swims the ocean currents.

O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth!
Psalm 8:6–9

Listen to this song and sit in wonder of God, the perfect parent of everything.

Consider using the musical interlude at the five minute mark to pray in gratitude to God for sharing the universe—and his authority—with you in all kinds of incredible ways.
Map the reach of God’s authority.
Picture in your mind someone who might be referred to as “the least of these”—the humblest in the world.

Like a parent who is primarily happy when they can be with their children, God reaches out to be with everyone—especially “the least of these”—by delegating himself through authority, drawing incredibly near to those who might seem “furthest from the mountaintop” through the delegation of authority.

Ukrainian refugees try to stay warm at a border crossing near Medyka, Poland, on March 1, 2022. (Visar Kryeziu/AP)

Refugees are a powerful example of this. When authority breaks down (in all kinds of different ways) people who must flee their country for safety are in a humbled state. They are dependent on others—other governments, other citizens of other countries, and others from around the world—to support them as they seek refuge.

God delegates himself in hundreds of ways to support these refugees, giving people the power to donate, to volunteer, to host, to make policy, to create economic opportunity, to defend… there is no end to the ways God lovingly works to surround a refugee with his fatherly embrace.
Reflect on Psalm 67 and meditate on how he loves through authority.
God’s design—to love through authority—is poetically described in Psalm 67.

For English speakers, this Psalm can be a bit odd because the climax of the Psalm is not at the end—it’s in the middle. Hebrew poetry often puts the most beautiful, important point in the middle and surrounds it, above and below, with parallel supporting points.

Take a look at how that happens in Psalm 67.

Meditate on the Psalm with this video.

In order to help the Psalm be impactful, this video has all the verses of Psalm 67 re-ordered in a way that might help you reflect on this good, loving, and carefully-designed authority system God has made for your benefit.
Worship Perspective
The master of all delegates his greatness to get closer to you.
Now, to internalize it all, try saying it in declarative sentences:

  1. God is greater than all. The master of a huge, diversely populated universe.
  2. He reaches out to that universe through relationships, putting himself into each relationship, delegating of himself.
  3. In doing so, he avoids being the distant God-at-the-top-of-the-mountain and comes down.
Explore how this story tells of a different kind of gift—one you’re entrusted with. 

First, gather ‘round and listen to this retelling of Oscar Wilde’s “The Happy Prince,” performed for radio by Bing Crosby and Orson Welles (and company) on Christmas Eve, 1944.

Reflect on the story with these questions:

  • In what ways did the Happy Prince come to understand parenthood’s responsibility?
  • In what ways did the Swallow come to understand parenthood’s responsibility?
  • Which of the pictures in the gallery below reflects the way the story made you feel, and why?

(If you’d like to read the full story,
check out this edition, complete with gorgeous watercolor illustrations by Croatian artist, Diana Hlevnjak.)
Find the common threads as the Bible discusses authority.
Compare and contrast the four passages in the image below.

As you do, note especially the ideas that come up more than once between the passages. What do you notice that seems to be important to God as he explains authority in these verses?

Explain this sentence in your own words, having done that:

Following authority is law, but having authority is grace.
Learn Perspective
To care for someone is a gift that can’t be earned. Enjoy it wisely.
Make the story real by sharing stories of authority from your life.
In contrast to the Happy Prince’s poignant journey of redemption, Oscar Wilde includes several humorous, sarcastic take-downs of authorities who are selfish and (therefore) failing at the opportunity to love God has given them.

“He looks just like an angel,” said the Charity Children as they came out of the cathedral in their bright scarlet cloaks and their clean white pinafores.

“How do you know?” said the Mathematical Master, “you have never seen one.”

“Ah! but we have, in our dreams,” answered the children; and the Mathematical Master frowned and looked very severe, for he did not approve of children dreaming.

“[The statue] is as beautiful as a weathercock,” remarked one of the Town Councillors who wished to gain a reputation for having artistic tastes; “only not quite so useful,” he added, fearing lest people should think him unpractical, which he really was not.

Early the next morning the Mayor was walking in the square below in company with the Town Councillors. As they passed the column he looked up at the statue: “Dear me! how shabby the Happy Prince looks!” he said.

“How shabby indeed!” cried the Town Councillors, who always agreed with the Mayor; and they went up to look at it.

“The ruby has fallen out of his sword, his eyes are gone, and he is golden no longer,” said the Mayor in fact, “he is little better than a beggar!”

“Little better than a beggar,” said the Town Councillors.

“And here is actually a dead bird at his feet!” continued the Mayor. “We must really issue a proclamation that birds are not to be allowed to die here.” And the Town Clerk made a note of the suggestion.

Discuss this question: Which of these have you seen play out in real life—and how?

(In an effort to keep the Serve section about ways that the concepts the Spotlight focuses on actually meet the world, try to speak to stories you’ve seen in your actual life. History has much to teach, but this is not the part of the Spotlight for it to do so. Mine deep your own lived experience, share it with others, and grow together!)
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(If you choose to make your request public, you'll see it display in the Current at the end of the Spotlight along with anyone else who did the same.)

Prayer Requests

Pray through your requests—together—as a group.
After submitting your requests in the above form, take some time to share with your group whatever requests the group might have for this week.
Serve Perspective
The people you serve become your kids. Blessed are those whose quiver is full.
Listen to this story about a song—then listen to the song the story is about.
Watch the following two videos. pertaining to the song, “The Road, The Rocks, and The Weeds” by John Mark McMillian.

  1. The first video is John Mark McMillan telling the story behind the song.
  2. The second video is him playing the song, itself—the song the story is about.
Lyrics from The Road, The Rocks, and The Weeds by John Mark McMillan

Come down from the stars.
Show your human scars.
Tell me what it’s like to believe,
through my Christ-haunted thoughts,
that the losses you bought
are the nights that you peopled with your dreams.

Well, I’ve got no answers
for heartbreaks or cancers,
but a savior who suffers them with me
singing, “Goodbye, Olympus!”
The heart of my maker
is spread out on the road, the rocks, and the weeds.

Come down from your mountain—
your high-rise apartment—
and tell me of the God you know who bleeds,
and what to tell my daughter
when she asks so many questions
and I fail to fill her heaviness with peace.

Well, I’ve got no answers
for hurt knees or cancers,
but a savior who suffers them with me
singing, “Goodbye, Olympus!”
The heart of my maker
is spread out on the road, the rocks, and the weeds.

And Aphrodite would not weep
nor Zeus would suffer for the weak,
but have you come to stand inside my pain?
And all the things I’ve begged you for,
eternity and evermore,
are hidden with me here beneath the rain—
the rain.

So shall I plant sequoias
and revel in the soil
of a crop I know I’ll never live to reap, then sow my body to my maker
and my heart unto my savior
and spread me on the road, the rocks, and the weeds—
spread me on the road.
Sing along with (or listen to) this song to close out this Spotlight.
Feel free to sing along or simply listen. Do what makes you comfortable—but do whatever helps you focus on the song's meaning best.
Farewell Perspective
It is grace alone that moves God to share with you his authority.
Let's wrap things up by taking a look at what's Current at Illume.
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