Acting As If—Parenting and the Prophetic
We are on our way to what is their final destination for the next several hours and I know this is it. These next few moments are all I have until I see my children at the end of their day.
So I start.
“You are going to have such an amazing day today. I can just feel it. This is going to be a GREAT day. I wonder what you will do…what you will learn. I can’t wait to find out when I pick you up. Let’s pray about it.”
Then I pray.
I pray that God guides and protects and gives favor. I pray for teachers and for students. I pray that God helps my children to love and to be a light.
“Mama, it’s getting late! Go ahead and let us out here!”
“Bye! I love you! See you later!”
As I turn around in the carpool line, I watch them run inside the doors, hunched over, with their backpacks flopping.
I think I know what you’re thinking. Good grief. Those poor kids and their hyper positive mother!
Hear me out on this.
Prophecy is a loaded word in church circles. It makes some people smile and some people cringe. The problem is that it has been largely and grossly misunderstood. We often think of prophecy as some type of fortune telling…”seeing” the future. While there are examples of this in scripture, what we see more of is “forth telling” rather then “fore-telling”.
Prophets call forth to people with the purpose of calling out of people. Prophets speak to the people “as if”.
There is an idea in couples and individual therapy of “acting as if”. The idea here is that our feelings can actually follow our behavior rather than the other way around. We all do this from time to time. You know how it works…you don’t feel like going on a walk, but you know it is good for you so you put on your walking shoes and get out there and do it. By the end of your walk, you are so glad you did it! Your feelings (wanting to walk) change on the basis of your behavior (getting out there and walking). You acted “as if” you wanted to go on that walk by getting out there and doing it…and pretty soon your feelings followed your behavior.
So often in our society we wait for it to work the other way around. We’ll love on our husband when we start to “feel” like we love him. We’ll work on being healthier when we are more motivated (i.e.”when we feel like it). How often do our feelings actually change…so how often does our behavior change?
You can try this right now. Go ahead. Smile. For many people just the simple act of smiling can make a person feel better. You are “acting as if” you are happy and the next thing you know you actually start to feel a little better.
Here is where it gets powerful to me.
Romans 4:17 describes God as “the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.”
Our God is a calling forth kind of God. He is an “act as if” God.
And, I am so glad He is.
He acts as if I am righteous, even though I am a sinner saved by Grace.
He acts as if I am worthy by loving on me unconditionally.
He acts as if I am His finished product rather than the work in progress I truly am.
Yes, our God…He is an “act as if “ God and I am so very glad that He is.
The most common presenting issue for a child who is referred for counseling is anxiety or fear. While therapy includes addressing a variety of issues depending on the child and situation, I always do a survey of their extracurricular activities, particularly physical ones. For a variety of reasons, I believe it is important for children to be reasonably active.
I like to say: “Get out of your house and out of your head.” Children who are fearful and anxious are often thinkers. As a result they tend to stay in their head too much and there is something wonderfully disengaging about physical activity. It disengages the mind while engaging the physical body. It gives the mind a break.
When I explore this area, sometimes I will get a blank look from parents. I might hear something like this: “Well, I don’t want to force my child to do anything they don’t want to do. I don’t believe in making my child participate in things they don’t choose. He/she isn’t really into sports (or whatever).”
As parents we are responsible for parenting our children mentally, physically, socially, and spiritually. Physically, we do not allow our children to “choose” whether or not they are going to eat their vegetables or when they are going to bed.
They just are.
We might give them a choice about which vegetables. We might let them choose the book before bed, their blanket, or their stuffed animal, but parenting often involves leading a child to do things they would not normally do on their own. They are going to eat their vegetables. They are also going to go to bed, attend church, and visit with family. These are not up for negotiation.
In our world of tiger mothers, mama bears, and helicopter parenting I get the idea of not wanting to over burden a child. That makes sense to me. Sometimes we can swing to one extreme or the other on the parenting pendulum and quite often those extremes…either side…the pushing or the providing (extra room for “choice”) is what causes the growing anxiety in our kids.
Kids need balance.
They also need to know that you believe in them.
They need you to “act as if”. They need you to call forth and out of them.
They need you to be prophetic.
As parents we all say we believe in our children…we think they are the smartest, the cutest, the strongest…but too often our actions and even our words do not align with our beliefs.
So, think about it this way: A parent can say something like: “It is time to choose your spring activity. I would love for you to choose what you want to do. If you have a difficult time choosing, I can help you.” The idea that is communicated…lovingly and firmly…in not so many words is: you are going to be active. You choose how or I will.
Following through on this plan takes a lot of strength in a parent. I know. I have been there. There have been more than a few times when one or both of my girls have not wanted to participate in an activity. I often give them choices, but sometimes you have to know your child.
This is what I have learned about mine: if I never lead my girls to try new things, they will stay in the house most of the day. They usually complain about getting started, but when it is over…EVERY SINGLE TIME, they have been happy that they did it….they have been happy that I led them to try something new and made them follow through with it. Every. Single. Time. Oh, and the smiles on their faces…the light in their eyes…these are the things that help me stay strong the next time, too.
When I firmly and lovingly (I’m not saying to be a tyrant here!) lead them to try new things, here is what I am saying to them: “You can do this. I believe in you. You are a strong girl. I know you can handle it.”
And, each time we follow through, they come to believe these ideas about themselves, too.
Look what I did when I didn’t think I could. (the smile)
I. CAN. DO. IT. (the light in their eyes)
Give them enough of those experiences and these messages become the words they begin to tell themselves. They begin to be their own encouragers. Some call it inner strength.
On the other hand, when I let them off the hook, when I don’t encourage them to try new things, this message is what I am telling them:
“You’re right. You can’t do this. You aren’t strong enough. It’s better if we just stay at home.”
Here’s the next mind-blowing truth:
As parents we have a prophetic role in the lives of our children.
We are to emulate God in giving life with our words and “to call things that are not as though they were.”
We are called to be “act as if” kind of parents.
Now is when we have to be very honest with ourselves. What are we prophesying over our children every day? Because I promise you…they and their lives will live up to it.
Whether your child is 1 or 21, listen to your words that you speak over your children throughout the day. What are you calling forth? I promise you…there is prophetic fruit in those words….for the good or bad.
To often I will hear things that sound more like this: “Well, he is just like his mother and you know she is very negative and anxious.“ “Well, she is a worrier.” “He doesn’t like to sit still.” “She doesn’t like school.” “She is a whiner.” “He just isn’t into sports.”
You don’t think you say things like these statements about your child? Take a few days and really listen to yourself. I hear seemingly innocent comments like these not just at work, but out in the community all of the time. Sure, there is value in knowing your child and knowing their temperament. There is also value and power in the words that you speak into and over them.
For good or bad, you ARE calling forth things that are NOT as though they ARE.
He may have been a little bit of a whiner at age 2 (good grief what two year old isn’t?), but you call him a whiner enough times and I promise you he will stay one.
She may have been a worrier in middle school (good grief research SHOWS girls are worriers at this age), but you call her a worrier enough times and I promise you she will grab hold of that identity with a tenacity that will stay with her for years if not longer.
He may not have been into sports at age 6, but you keep saying that he isn’t and I promise you that it will be more than just a stage…it will be a lifetime identity.
I encourage you, as well as myself, to realize and act on the incredibly powerful and prophetic position we have as parents in the life of our children. Whether you are a biological parent, a grandparent, a spiritual parent, or a role model…your words and actions have power.
So, get your child out there…encourage him or her to try new things. Act as if they are strong, confident, and capable…whether they believe it or not. Whether you believe it or not.
Whether you SEE it yet or not.
Because when I hear myself telling my children: “You can do it. You are my daughter. I KNOW you. I KNOW you can” I also hear my heavenly Father whispering that same message to me: “You can do it. You are my daughter. I KNOW you. I KNOW you can”
I am so thankful He “acts as if” I am strong, confident, and capable…so glad that He calls forth the daughter He knows I am…that He knows He created me to be…whether I believe it or not…whether He or I or anyone else SEES it yet or not.
I am thankful that God speaks that kind of life into me and thankful I get to be part of His voice speaking that kind of life into my children, who are also His son and daughters.
So please, please, please watch how you talk about your children…whether they are listening or not. You ARE a prophet in their lives…a forth-teller, His voice, His messenger. And, while you are at it…please, please, please watch how you talk about yourself around your children, too, because how we talk about ourselves matters. We can have a prophetic role in our own life, too….and when we speak over ourselves…in a very real way we are speaking over our children, too.
Act as if. Call things that are NOT as though they ARE…things that are pure and good…things that give your children a hope and a future.
Then sit back and watch.
I pick up my children with a big smile on my face, full of anticipation. I have missed them and I am so very excited to hear about their good day because I believe they are good children (whether I always SEE it or not!) and I know Whose children they are…so I know that the day HAS BEEN GOOD….just like I said it would be when I dropped them off.
And, you know what? If it hasn’t been a good day in some way…and we will likely have many of those…it was probably just a few moments that were rough and I am fairly certain we will be able to handle it…fairly certain there is even something good that will come out of that rough time.
So no matter what… I KNOW my children’s day has been good…because HE is good.
And, after doing this for more than a few years, I sometimes get tears in my eyes when I see what I like to think of as fruit in my oldest daughter…my daughter who just a few years ago would get into the van with an anxious frown…now gets into the van and smiles wide: “I had a great day, mama!”
I knew you would, sweetie.
Because HE, my “act as if” God…He is good.