There has been much talk in newsfeeds lately regarding helicopter parents and their habit of hovering. While I tend to shy away from any scent of the Mommy Wars as a conflict-avoiding middle child, my heart has been thinking about the difference between the societal idea of helicopter parents and the Biblical notion of hovering.
Helicopter parents are popularly portrayed as parents who seek to wrap their children in bubble tape, sunscreen, and organic, homemade bug spray. The term seems to refer to parents who seek to remove the natural consequences that issue forth from their children’s choices; parents who refuse to hear a negative word about their children; parents who must have their child be in the front row, first chair, starting line-up and all other measures of perfection.
The word hovering, however, does not necessarily have to represent such a fear-induced, constantly prohibitive presence.
There is another hovering, a love-induced nearness, a guiding and protecting presence, that I believe parents are invited into by God Himself.
In the early years, known as the formative years, I have had the distinct (and often dumbing) pleasure of being with my children the majority of the time. I was able to make observations of their quirks, patterns, behaviors, fears and tendencies in a myriad of different contexts. I was also able to offer appropriate interpretation of their painful and joyful experiences. I was able to coach them through conflicts, discipline them for poor choices and reward them for faithful behavior.
Now that they are older, their formation invites more company including teachers and coaches and school friends and neighborhood friends. Although our commitment to intentional involvement in their friendships, interests and development has not changed, they leave my ear and eye shot much more regularly these days, an appropriate step toward independence.
Not a day has gone by when we haven’t overdone it or underdone it or some combination of the two. We have yet to have a perfect parenting day. But the high bar set by God continues to beckon us out onto the game field of their little lives and hearts and souls to try again each day.
There is one huge critical difference between helicoptering and hovering: the person of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit’s first great act was to hover.
The earth was formless and voice, and darkness was over the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. Genesis 1:2.
The word translated as “moving” is the Hebrew word rachaph that literally means “to be soft, to brood, to flutter.” Some translators even use the phrase “to lovingly flutter.” The image this particular word would have brought to the minds of its Hebrew audience would have been that of a mother bird brooding over, hovering protectingly over her nest. In fact, the same word is found in Deuteronomy 32, a chapter of beautiful imagery depicting God’s love and care for His people.
For the Lord’s portion is His people; Jacob is the allotment of His inheritance; He found him in a desert land, and in a howling waste of a wilderness; He encircled him, He cared for him, He guarded him as the pupil of His eye. Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that hovers over its young, He spread His wing and caught them. He carried them on His pinions. Deuteronomy 32:9-11.
It is clear Scripturally that parents have been entrusted with the shepherding, protection and instruction of their children. We are to mirror God’s particular love for our children, even if we do so falteringly and failingly and with great trembling and need.
That being said, we do not trust in our own ability or own power. We realize we have limitations, we realize that we cannot override the wills of our children, that the Spirit of God can and will and must go places that even the best parents cannot.
For the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. 1 Corinthians 2:10.
The Spirit of God goes where parents and the law cannot. He can search the heart of our children. He goes with them, hovering, brooding, protecting. This knowledge keeps me from fear-induced helicoptering around my children.
Often I express to people that my job is to nurture and protect my children until the Holy Spirit begins to take over. He does a far better job instructing, convicting, comforting, leading than I ever could.
As I seek to parent my little nest, my hope is in the Holy Hoverer.