Everything I Know about God, I've Learned from Being a Parent

Veronica Zundel

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Content

The Bible tells us that God is 'the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name' (Ephesians 3:15). If earthly families gain their nature from God's parenthood, what might our experience of family tell us about the nature of God? That is the question on which this book focuses.

Veronica Zundel roots her reflections in her journey into and through parenthood, a hard journey that led through infertility, late motherhood and then learning to parent a child with special needs. What she learned along the way - about love and sacrifice, faithfulness and forgiveness - had a profound impact on her understanding of what God feels about us, his most beloved children.

From the Introduction

As I grew into parenthood, I began to see parallels between how I behaved and felt towards my beloved child, and how God might feel and behave towards me and God's other children. I spotted more and more connections between my attitude towards my son John and what might be God's attitude to us, God's children. I also started to look afresh at things I had been taught in my Christian life, and to ask, 'Would a good parent really do this?' It was not far from this to the conclusion: if God is at least as loving a parent as we should be to our children, then we have to rethink some of the things we believe about God, because the actions we sometimes attribute to God are actions no loving parent would perform.

My original plan was to structure the book around theological themes such as creation, fall, redemption and recreation. Instead, I have chosen to build it around stages of child development, from conception to adulthood. This is because my thinking about God's parenthood has arisen out of my own experience, not out of a doctrinal blueprint, and I found I wanted the book to do the same. I think you'll find I end up saying quite a lot about creation, fall and the rest in any case!

Regardless of whether or not you are a parent, or would like to be, or even wish you hadn't been, I hope this book can help you think about God's parenthood.

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Author info

Veronica Zundel is the author of The Time of our Lives (BRF, 2007) and Crying for the Light: Bible readings and reflections for living with depression (BRF, 2008). She also contributes to New Daylight Bible reading notes and has written a regular column for Woman Alive magazine for many years.

Reviews

Married with one child, Veronica Zundel, columnist, poet and author, has written about depression, infertility and the struggles of family life. Most parenting books focus on the practicalities of being a parent, perhaps including insights from the biblical image of God as father. Veronica Zundel does the opposite. From her experience as a child and parent, she explores what this tells her about God. Within the Christian tradition, this approach is scarcely new. Jesus's most famous parable compares God to a father with two unsatisfactory sons! Everything I Know about God offers a rich, extended treatment of the theme. Interlaced with the author's own story, full of tragedy and delight, it builds a warm and compelling picture of God - who loves us more even, and certainly no less than, a human father or mother.

There are several dangers for a book like this, which Zundel mostly avoids. As a parent, she might easily exclude those who are not parents - yet with so many insights from childhood and childlessness, it still has appeal. As a mother, her natural emphasis on child-bearing and mothering might easily exclude men - but the warmth of her comments about her husband ensures this is not so.

The biggest challenge for Zundel, however, is methodological. Christian communicators have always recognised the potency of arguing from human experience to statements about God's character - but also its limitations. For all such parallels eventually break down simply because God is not human! Zundel counters this through her liberal use of biblical quotations - though her choice of texts is not always impartial. This is particularly notable in her treatment of God's 'emotions'. She draws on the Hebrew tradition to show that this is a legitimate way of talking about God - which allows her to deduce from her own emotions of delight and compassion the same emotions in God's heart. But her treatment of anger, another legitimate and powerful emotional component of love, is rather weaker. None of this is surprising, but we should remember that the picture of God developed in such a way usually turns out to be a reflection of the author's own culture, values and attitudes. Zundel's refrain 'It worries me a lot' could equally be applied to her own methodology.

In the end, she deals with this concern in a most winsome way. Her final reflection is on parents becoming grandparents and how they must accept that their children will parent in a different way, based on different values. This allows her to offer her overarching conclusions to the reader, while acknowledging that other generations may come to different conclusions about God from their own experience.

Veronica Zundel explains her desire for this book: 'I have written this book to explore a more loving idea of God. . . . I hope that you, whether you are a parent or not, whether you want to be or not, have found glimpses of that God within the pages of this book.'

I certainly did.

Reviewed by Michael Duff for the Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, College Journal


Reviewed by Mark Witheridge

I would start by recommending this is a book anyone can read - it's not just for parents, but anyone who has parents, knows of people who are parents, would like to be parents in the future. My first impression is that although the title may reflect the writer's theme and intention it is not very catchy or memorable.

The book is well written, easy to read and is made more applicable by the many personal, honest and relevant stories of the ups and downs of parenthood, made more poignant by the writer having a child with special needs. Once or twice I wanted to say 'slow down - where is this going?', but this book is a personal account, not a theological treatise on the subject of parenthood, hence it opens up some areas which will make you think and explore further and there may be some which you may not agree with.

The book takes you through the stages of life from the perspective of a God who is intimately involved with us at each stage; yearning for children, through pregnancy - eagerly awaiting our birth; proud and excited at our first steps, helping us to grow from young children through teenage years into mature adults, loving us with discipline and sharing the pain we feel. It also touches on personal issues such as dealing with special needs, discipline, adoption, the pain felt by parents in letting go. He is always there for us, whatever we do, or whatever mistakes we make - He lets us go to be free to choose to love Him in return.

In summary having a right view of God as a loving parent to us is so vital to our well-being and it affects how we pass on to the next generation. To quote from page 168 in summary:- "If we think of God as an infinitely loving parent who wants God's children to be transformed into the very best God has made them to be, then we will encourage our children or our congregation to have a free, trusting relationship with God and to explore the gifts that God wants to give them"


"God is nice and he likes us"

Some books are a long time in gestation - in the case of Veronica Zundel's journey from concern about conception to pondering the possibility of grandchildren this is true in more ways than one!

A wonderfully crafted personal history she weaves together stories from the first steps of her parenthood with the wonderful revelations that God is the loving parent of everyone and sees each of us as his special child.

Each chapter, with enticing headings such as 'Tears, Tumbles and Tantrums' and 'Teenage Traumas', begins with her own family's story and then finds resonances in the story of God's family.

Never drifting far from the words of the Bible, the text drips with quotes from the Scriptures, she nonetheless skillfully steers her way through the tendency of the church which easily portrays a picture of a God of judgment instead of a loving Creator.

This book, which owes much to the generosity of the Mennonite community in which she has grown in faith, will bring strength and comfort to all parents at all stages of the journey of life.

Reviewed by Andrew Dotchin

Book details

  • ISBN: 9781841014166
  • Published: 18 January 2013
  • Status:
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 176
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