How but in custom and ceremony

Are Innocence and Beauty Born?

—William Butler Yeats


Parenting from Mount Olympus

Saturday, December 1, 2012

I attend a monthly Charlotte Mason discussion group, and we were recently discussing Mason’s concept of “Masterly Inactivity.” Masterly Inactivity (which Mason also described as “wise passiveness”) comes in two parts—law, and liberty within the law. Parents are challenged to be constant in things necessary while gladly allowing liberty in things permissive.

The moderator of the discussion pointed out how like this is to God’s way with his own children. (I remember the Psalm so often quoted by Mason—“Thou hast set my feet in a large room”—and Chesterton’s argument that we have the Ten Commandments because it would take too long to list all we are allowed to do.) God is our Abba father (Galatians 4:6) and even our nursing mother (Isaiah 66:12-13); he presents himself to us as a parent and is the supreme model of parenting.

“Do we parent like God?” the moderator asked us. As we contemplated this question, we all expressed thankfulness in God’s gift of free will. We wondered over God’s forbearance in allowing his children to make mistakes, and agreed it was difficult to allow our own children to do the same (within safety, of course, just as God saves us from many sins). We contrasted God’s ten commandments to the litanies of no’s and don’ts we too often blast at our children. We admitted that sometimes our instructions were capricious or even unnecessary, while God’s are consistent and essential. The moderator challenged us, “Are we as parents displaying God’s masterly inactivity, or are we trying to micromanage our children?”

“Like the Greek gods.” I piped up with the sudden thought. “When my brother and I read The Iliad, we said again and again that we were so thankful for the one true God. The Greek gods and goddesses were always interfering with the mortals and trespassing on their wills; mortals were divinely compelled to do things that they didn’t want to do. The gods were always changing their minds, so that it was impossible to understand or please any of them.”

The moderator grasped at this thread of thought. “Wow! So how many of us are parenting like Greek gods?” The question made clear the subtle, idolatrous blasphemy of replacing God’s example of parenthood with that of false gods. Parenting from Mount Olympus is a tacit rejection of the image of Jehovah for the image of Jove.

It was an interesting thought to me, and I hope it makes you dwell more on the supreme example of parenting that we have in our God. ❖


June 12, 2012      Originally published as “Parenting from Mount Olympus” on the blog Cabbages and Kings.

June 13, 2012      Anonymous said: “Excellent post! Thank you for challenging us to always have the mind of Christ.”

June 12, 2012       Revised and published as “Parenting from Mount Olympus” on the blog Linnet on the Leaf.

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The drawing “Jove Throwing a Thunderbolt” by Giovanni Francesco Barbieri is believed to be in the public domain.