by Terra Koch
What do a tiger, an elephant, a dolphin, a helicopter, a snowplow and lawnmower have in common? You might have been thinking “zoo” or “circus” until you got to helicopter and snowplow. You wouldn’t be far from the truth, though, because these are labels for parenting styles. Varying levels of authority, control, different short- and long-term goals, and frequency of direct intervention. You may already be familiar with some of these terms and possibly brought someone to mind. While these don’t perfectly or precisely describe all parents, we do recognize there are differences in the expectations we set on ourselves and others when raising children. Every parent has a different mix of experiences, emotions, fears, challenges, personalities, and goals for their children. Their actions come from a place of wanting what they perceive as best for their children.
“Snowplow” parenting (also called “lawnmower” parenting) is one of the more recently coined style of raising children. USA Today describes a snowplow parent as parents who “‘mow down’ a path for their children removing all obstacles that may cause discomfort, challenges, or struggles. This parent not only helps their child but probably does a lot of the work for the child or at least checks to make sure that everything is correct.”1 Parents.com cites anxiety and fear fueled by 24-hour news and social media as drivers for the “trend” in snowplow parenting.2
Turning to scripture, we find in Ecclesiastes 1:9 (NIV) that “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” Is “snowplow” parenting really new? Haven’t there been parents throughout history who have paved the road for their children? Weren’t there kings and queens who fought entire wars to ensure their heirs inherited their kingdoms? What about us today, whether we are parents or not, is this really so beyond our realm of understanding? Do we expect this sometimes of our relationship with God, or should we?
We read the words of the prophet Isaiah
A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
Isaiah 40:3-5 (NIV)
In Luke 3:4 (NIV), we read reference to Isaiah 40 as John the Baptist is baptizing the crowd. They ask him in verses 10-11 “What should we do then?’ the crowd asked. John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.” What is he telling the crowd gathered to do here? John the Baptist isn’t saying to plow everyone down so you can trample over them, he’s saying to prepare the way for the Lord, by loving others.
In Exodus, God’s people had been enslaved by Pharaoh for generations. God sends Moses to Pharaoh to proclaim “‘This is what the Lord says: Israel is my firstborn son, and I told you, “Let my son go, so he may worship me.” (Exodus 4:22-23 NIV). To free His children from the bondage of slavery, God would send plagues on Egypt until Pharaoh yielded, and parted the Red Sea so they could escape the army that pursued them in their exodus. For you and me, to save us from the bondage of sin, He sent His son to live amongst us and die for our salvation. For those who believe in Him, He has cleared our path to freedom from our sins (John 3:16 NIV), and we are to prepare the way for the Lord through our work in his Kingdom today. Pray to Him and look to his word for understanding of what that means in our day-to-day lives.
Out of the same abundance of love from which He freed the Israelites from slavery and frees us from the price of our sins through salvation in Christ, he also does not “snowplow” every challenge from our paths. In Matthew 7:9-12 (NIV), Jesus says ““Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” We may sometimes ask God to give us a life full of ease, affluence and luxury, free from emotional and physical pain. While we may experience some of those gifts and blessings, He alone knows what is best for our hearts and souls today. He will not remove every challenge from our paths, but we can trust in His love and His sovereignty “and we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28 NIV).
God is not a Tiger parent, a helicopter parent, or a snowplow parent. He is our father in Heaven, our omnipotent, omniscient Father who loves us perfectly, and we are humbled to be called His children. We may be prone to grumbling when things don’t go our way, but to continue the passage in Isaiah 40, we go on to read His promise to us:
Why do you complain, Jacob?
Why do you say, Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord;
my cause is disregarded by my God”?
Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.”
Our perseverance, knowing He has shown His power and His love for His people, for those who love Him, compel us to push all else aside in our lives, and frees us to love others. We cannot expect perfect lives, but we can anticipate that He will fulfill His promises and we will be made new and complete in Him one day.
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” 1 John 3:1-2 (NIV)