The Poverty of Parenting

Reviewing these days what I believe in the core of me…that truth which indeed delivered me: I am dark yet lovely (Song. 1:5). And this truth is finding its way into who I am as a parent.  I am not sure what it is for most, but for me, parenting is a revealer of my ‘darkness’ more than any other function, role, or relationship I play a part in. It exposes quickly every faultline and false foundation in me.  And in these days, I am confronted with a great amount of weakness, a stinging amount of impatience, of pride, of selfishness, and the like.

In these exposures of my ‘darkness,’ I am hit full force with the tide of my weighty weakness as I feel its unavoidable impact upon my children. There is no way of evading it. I will fall short. I will miss the mark. And I will do it every day. With that comes the sobering reality that every honest parent since Adam knows, the little hearts and minds of my children will be marked by my shortcomings and errors.  It is one thing to be connected with your sin and shortcomings, yet quite another to watch as those faults impact little frames and wound little hearts.

And as I ponder these things once more, I almost hear the Holy Spirit whispering, “Surprised again? Surprised by your weakness? Surprised by the sin within?” That which He has seen so vividly all along, now blares before my eyes, and I am the only one thrown off by it.  He rushes in with the remembrance that the Gospel and the Good News never begins with my success or my godliness, but with His fullness in the wake of my poverty. I come poor. I come in need. I come empty. I come as a child. And there, in that place and that posture, He receives me. He embraces me. He delights in me. And He fills my emptiness with Himself. Here He calls me lovely and crowns me with His enjoyment.

This is the gospel I am to live before my children. And it is as I drink of the depths of my poorness, while cleaving to Christ continually, that I will offer my children my best as a parent. I can do nothing apart from Him. Any kind word or good attitude that is not born of the Spirit is wind and a vapor at best. Better that I give my children a vision of desperate dependence and complete poverty of my own with intermittent whispers of the strength of God than giving them some impressive outward spirituality rife with the sickness of my own strivings. The sooner I come to the end of me, the greater my entrance, and thus also my children’s’, into the strength and abundance of God. Yes, living in the deep of my spiritual poverty and clinging to the Vine of Christ—not just in theory but in actuality, and not just occasionally but incessantly–I am at my best as a mom.

These children are not mine to bring forth, they are the Lord’s. I am not their savior, He is. My perfection will not deliver them but only the One who is perfect. And the truth of the matter is, they will benefit the most from seeing me rushing to the Cross when I am wrong, clinging to my Redeemer and leaning into Him for every bit of my strength. This is living the gospel before them, and in turn pushing them into the path that will become for them their own shining testimony of, “I am dark but lovely to God (Song. 1:5).”

  • Hi Dana,

    I’m currently reading your book “Mourning For The Bridegroom” and am really enjoying it and being provoked by it. But today I thank you for sharing about your own struggles as a mom. Today was an especially rough day for me and one where I was made accutely aware of my own darkness. How true that parenting exposes our weaknesses more than anything else! I am finding myself continually surprised by the sin in my heart since the birth of my second child 3 months ago and find it difficult not to get discouraged. I feel ashamed and condemned and like a terrible mother and a little helpless when confronted with so much darkness that seems so difficult to overcome! My prayers are such desperate cries of brokenness on days like today and I am definitely needing to learn how to lean into Him for emotional and spiritual strength. Again, I thank you for sharing and would love to hear more from you on this subject!


  • Lillian

    You don’t know me, but THANK YOU for posting this. I am often in tears at the end of each day, knowing that I have marked my children with my own failings. Thank you for the reminder that they are the Lord’s to bring forth and not my own. That there is redeeming beauty in coming to the end of myself. I love it. I hope you don’t mind, but I’m going to post a link to this on my blog! If you would rather not, could you shoot me an email? 😀 Thanks!

  • thank you very much Dana. this is so true. I encouraged me to read this, it encourages me that i can do nothing outside of Him. Blessings

  • Nita Steiner

    How true all of this is, Dana! I have discovered this to be true in raising spiritual children as well. Thank you for this wonderful word! God bless you and your dear family.


  • dana

    Thank you, Nita. How I look up to you and honor you in this. So grateful for standard bearers like you in this pursuit.

  • dana

    Of course you can post a link, Lillian. Bless you!

  • Marci Isaacs

    Thanks, Dana. I am not a parent yet, but your post spoke to me about the importance of forgiving our parents. It gave me the needed perspective from a parent who tries to parent perfectly and yet falls short. Thank you for sharing.

  • Lillian

    thank you so much dana! 😀

  • Nonie

    Dana, this is Nita’s twin and she sent me this article on the poverty of parenting…how I love the title as it is so true!!! After the kids have come and gone from our home I found I still regretted things I had not learned while they were young. The Lord has reminded me many times of His redeeming love and care as their perfect Father that still parents them. Your article brings it all down to where it really is and I love it that young moms (and dads) can read this and know that they are not alone. Thank you so much for keeping that in front of those that have the MOST important job in the world…including the spiritual children as well. Lovingly, Nonie

  • UUuuuuhhhhh! So resounding. I am totally inadequate and parenting is one of the few places that the spirit of condemnation has come on me. I’m so overwhelming glad that God can delight in me and I pray that I am made more like Him sooner rather than later before too much “damage” is done to these precious, impressionable hearts. Parenting is such a weighty thing, and I so want to be Jesus before my kids…thank you for speaking into my heart on this today.