I have two brothers. I am two years younger than Toby, eight years younger than Brent. We love each other and over many years we’ve played, laughed, dreamed, supported one another. When we were younger, we said stupid things to one another, when Mom or Dad weren’t around, like “I’m gonna kill you!” as we rushed another with fiery eyes and spit flying. We’d wrestle until we were tired, then come up for air and wonder what game we could play next.
I don’t think any of us considered actually killing one another. But that was the story of the first family in the created world.
The first parents on earth were Adam and Eve. How did they parent? What hints do we have about them as parents, does it matter, and what did they do? Perhaps Eve feels vindicated, that she was made from man’s body yet now, she says, with God’s help has produced a hu-man, and he was called Cain. Cain sounds like the Hebrew verb for produce.
With the birth of Cain in Genesis 4:1 is the beginning of the family in the world.
After Abel was born, jealousy and anger set upon Cain, and rather than master it, Cain chose to master his brother Abel, and he killed him.
Adam and Eve are the parents of the first murderer, and the text says nothing about their grief or reaction to this murder. This is a curious omission. Why would a parent’s grief over one son killing another escape mention in Genesis by Moses and other compilers? With Abel, the first victim of murder, and Cain the first murderer, wouldn’t Adam and Eve be distraught? Might that have shaped how they viewed the whole business of parenting from then on? God drove Cain away. Adam and Eve had the perfect garden home, two sons, and now they had nothing.
What can we learn about sharing faith with our children from the early creation and fall story? These reflections are not intended to give us “proven” parenting tips but to allow us the vantage point of Scripture as it speaks to our places as fathers and mothers, as it invites us into the story of the broken creation–not just the first parents whose experiment in life and in parenting didn’t go as planned, but also God, the Father’s creation didn’t go as planned. What can we learn about God’s parenting, how he reacted to sin? We’ll take a look at that next post.
One of my best friends in Uganda, Daniel Mwaza, asked me a question I’ll never forget. We were talking about the deaths of so many children in Uganda due to AIDS, dehydration, polio, and malaria. He must have sensed something in me, a desire to know the heart of a Ugandan parent, to understand how they value their children. He asked, “Do you think that because we have more children than you whites and more die, that we care for them any less, that we grief any less than you would if your child dies?”
What has shaped your parenting? What early experiences in life or in parenting or from your own parents? What death of a child or terrible act has re-directed the way you parent? Does the Bible story have anything to say to us, the experiences of Adam and Eve and their descendants? Finally, what does all this have to say about how we share faith with our children?